Kent cathedral to host English wine festival for the first time in 1,000 years

A celebration of Kent’s wine producers will take place at Rochester Cathedral in November. The event will also honour one of the county’s very first producers – a monk who championed viticulture at the cathedral more than a millennium ago.

The event is organised by the Dean and Chapter of Rochester and the newly formed Wine Garden of England partnership and will take place in the cathedral crypt on Saturday 17th November.

The ticketed event, sponsored by Southeastern, will be the first public outing for the Kentish wine partnership, with the producing wineries offering tutored tastings and talks about their wines in sessions throughout the day. There will be three, two-hour sessions on the day, and attendees will receive their own branded wine glass and have the chance to meet the producers themselves and sample 30 wines. Tickets for one two-hour session will cost £50. Spaces are limited, and tickets are expected to sell fast when they go on public sale during the first week of September.

Charles Simpson of Simpsons Wine Estate said: “We are delighted that our first public event will be one celebrating the unique story of Rochester Cathedral’s history of wine making. Not only are we giving people the chance to learn more about Kent’s outstanding range of wines, from the people who make them, but we can also raise a glass to Kent’s incredible wine heritage, stretching back more than 1,000 years!”

The event will be held in memory of Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester from 1077 to 1108. Gundulf was a monk who came to England following the Norman Conquest and is renowned for building several castles and cathedrals, including those at Rochester. He was also Kent’s first known wine producer, overseeing the care of the vineyards in the grounds of the Priory and the production of wine for the monks.

Dean of Rochester Cathedral, Philip Hesketh said: “When Gundulf died, the monks of Rochester held an annual wine festival in his memory, hence my inspiration to restore this tradition! It was a natural fit for the newly formed Wine Garden of England partnership, and I am delighted that Kent’s flourishing vineyards have supported this initiative with great enthusiasm and commitment.”

The Wine Garden of England is made up of seven Kent wine producers: Biddenden, Chapel Down, Domaine Evremond, Gusbourne, Hush Heath Estate, Simpsons Wine Estate and Squerreys. This friendly collective was formed to promote Kent as the Wine Garden of England, with its superb quality wines and the county’s unique and prized terroir, to both the wine trade and the wider consumer market locally, nationally and internationally. In addition, the proactive producers group aims to create a ‘world-class’ wine trail that promotes tourism to the county, in partnership with Visit Kent.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Charles Simpson added: “The blessing of the wine harvest is an annual tradition in France, and the group would also like to initiate it in Kent for the first time. Dean Philip has kindly agreed to include this Blessing during Evensong on Friday November 16th in the spectacular setting of Rochester Cathedral.”

It is intended that The Wine Garden of England Festival at Rochester Cathedral will become a long-term fixture in the UK wine calendar.

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