Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published May 21st 2011
There are a lot of good things about the UK, but not even the staunchest Anglophile would argue that weather should be included on this list. And to make great wine you really need to be able to rely on a particular kind of weather, which is why there are so few good English wines: there are so few pockets of England that get the weather good wine needs.
But not many is not none. As the Chapel Down winery in Kent is finding - their fizzy Rosé has just been awarded a Gold Medal at the International Wine Challenge 2011. The most sophisticated people in wine stopped sneering at the UK a while ago, but it's time for everyone else to stop and have a try, and a good way to do that is to head out to the home of Chapel Down and see how they've been doing it Brit style.
The Chapel Down winery is in Small Hythe, Tenterden, and the team behind the venture say that, despite what everyone thinks, the conditions here – what with the blend of chalky and well drained soils, is very, very similar to the Champagne region. And that gold medal might now back up their argument. Some of the 22 vineyards you'll see when you drive though this region, which gets stripier by the visit, are owned by Chapel Down, and some of them are just managed by them on the owner's behalf, which they'll tell you means that the best information is spread amongst growers quicker.
The hub of production itself is the bit you'll be most wanting to see if you're a fan of the grape. As with most wineries they have a generous tasting area with plenty of people on hand to talk you though what you're trying, and sell you some of your favourite wines in the process, but Chapel Down also welcomes you to walk amongst the vines and though their herb garden (the produce from which they also sell.).
If your interest is a bit more serious you might like to take a guided tour of the working part of the winery – it's less stamping on giant tubs of grapes now and more steel drums and pipes, but despite the more removed style of production you'll still get a fascinating insight into how they do the magic that turns this humble fruit into the nectar of the gods.
These are the people who make the wine
The Chapel Down Food and Wine shop is open seven days a week between 10am and 5pm for you to drop in and have a taste. There's also a restaurant onsite if you want something good to soak up your wine. It has a terrace overlooking the vineyards so on a sunny day this could easily be heaven for you.