Champagne Wine Tour vs. South East England Wine Tour
Although certain regions on the continent are better known for their grapes, you may be surprised to learn that Britain has its own ‘wine country’ that spans Kent and Sussex. Instead of journeying to France to sample the delights of the grapevine, simply head south. This makes for an incredibly relaxing holiday for wine lovers – stopping off at vineyards, wineries, and restaurants along the way to ensure you make the most of a holiday in the rolling hills of the English countryside.
Champagne Wine Tour
- Distance: 169 miles/273 kilometres
- Driving time: Approx. 5 hours
- Recommended holiday time: 10 days
The four-hour drive from Calais to Troyes is a pleasant one, winding through rolling hills. Populated with half-timbered buildings in the old French style, cobbled streets full of public art and plenty of interesting restaurants to explore, the city can be explored in a few hours. Take time out to walk along the Seine and stop off for a bite to eat in one of the city’s many quaint cafés. Many tourists to the area use Troyes as a base to explore the Champagne region, as it is close to the vineyards as well as the Foret d’Orient national park with lush green woodland that’s perfect for hiking or cycling.
Drive the scenic route towards Chalons-en-Champagne, visiting the picturesque villages of Brienne-le-Chateau and Moncetz-l’Abbaye along the way. Home to a variety of excellent restaurants, you’ll be hard pressed to decide where to eat, but we’d recommend Le Petit Pasteur or Les Sarments for traditional French food and follow it with a leisurely boat cruise down the river. In the surrounding area, visit the Champagne Joseph Perrier vineyard and cellars where you can learn about the process of making and bottling champagne, as well as a tasting.
On the edge of the Montagne de Reims national park, lies the small village of Ay Champagne, surrounded by champagne houses that are ready for you to discover. Book far in advance for a tour of the Billecart-Salmon champagne house – its popularity is due to the family run nature of the business, as well as the intimate and informative tour and tasting. Lunches in the garden are also popular, with many guests staying for hours to enjoy the atmosphere.
On the way to Hautvillers, be sure to stop off at Epernay for a brief look around. The area surrounding Hautvillers is home to the larger champagne houses such as Moet et Chandon and Dom Perignon. With plenty of beautiful restaurants to choose from, you’ll be spoiled for choice. For larger budgets, the Michelin starred Restaurant Le Royal is perfect for special occasions, but for a quick and practical (but still delicious) lunch, try Café d’Hautvillers – traditional French food with plenty of outdoor seating.
Kent and Sussex Wine Tour
- Distance: 116 miles/186 kilometres
- Driving time: Approx. 4 hours
- Recommended holiday time: 10 days
Over the last decade, English wine has been up there with the world’s best and, although it’s not the normal choice for many, our domestic sparkling wine is seeing success all over the world and bagging top awards to prove it. The fertile soil of England is now home to over 500 vineyards, the majority of which are in southern England. If you’re looking to indulge in a post-Brexit wine-focused staycation, a Kent wine tour could be the perfect alternative to a similar trip on the continent.
Use Brighton as a base for the southern leg of your Southern England Wine Tour. With the Ridgeview Wine Estate and the Breaky Bottom Vineyards both day trip distance away, as well as a wide range of accommodation available, it’s the perfect place to stay. Spend a leisurely day wandering around The Lanes, then head to the seaside for a walk down the pier and some fish and chips. Over August bank holiday each year, Ridgeview hosts a small festival with DJs, wine tasting and live music. Coordinate your visit to make the most of the party.
Rye is a gorgeous little town that feels like a step back in time. The Mermaid Inn, on Mermaid Street, was built in 1420, and the street that it sits on is full of old-world charm, with cobbled streets, lush hanging baskets and half-timbered houses. The hotel is fitted out with antique four poster beds and has sloping beamed ceilings and numerous staircases – it really is like going back in time. Nearby, there’s Lamb House, a Georgian home and garden with literary connections and Smallhythe Place, a 16th century house and beautiful cottage gardens. If you’re looking for a charming lunch stop in Rye, The Fig sells fresh and healthy food, and is vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Visit the Chapel Down winery in Tenterden for guided tours of 22 acres of vineyards. Chapel Down makes a range of wines including rose, white and sparkling, as well as gin. Visitors are encouraged to explore the grounds, the beautiful herb garden, and have a meal at the restaurant before taking the wine tour.
Biddenden is a beautiful, typical English village with quaint pubs and tearooms to choose from. Close by, Sissinghurst Castle is a National Trust property with an internationally renowned garden designed by Vita Sackville-West. The main draw to Biddenden is Kent’s oldest vineyard, established here in 1969. With eleven varieties of grapes, the Biddenden Vineyards continue to produce award winning white, red, rose and sparkling award-winning wines.