Sadly, 2020 was not a tremendous year for European travel, but this did allow us the opportunity to look inwards. As experienced tour operators to some of the world’s greatest wine regions, we found ourselves turning to what gems lay on our own doorstep thanks to a notable upswing in enquiries from our clients who wanted to get to know our own winelands better.
Let’s not forget to give credit where credit is due – our lovely winemakers have been working hard behind the scenes for some time to see our very own viticulture flourish. Their innovation and in-depth technical knowledge have enabled the industry to explode in recent years. In the last decade or so, experts in British wine have begun to receive global recognition for their specialist training and skill in oenology. From knowing where to plant the vines and when to which soil to use for each varietal, developing award-winning wines is no easy feat! Alongside the vast investments in British viticulture, the last few decades have seen all this come together to shape a boom in English vineyard staycations and tasting tours.
Beyond the world of wine, the yearning to discover our own cultural and historical environments has never been more powerful. In the age of quick trips to the Continent, we may sometimes forget the rich natural landscapes on our doorstep, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered across Great Britain, and the elite quality-driven gastronomy – from local family-run farm shops to iconic Michelin-star restaurants – the country has become celebrated for. Here lies the home of Neolithic mystery Stonehenge, countless medieval castles, stunning National Trust delights, and even intriguing Roman ruins for your travels!
The joy of an organised tour with an accredited tour operator is that it brings the advantage of working with local guides and vineyards to blend the perfect trip to suit each individual client’s desires, whether that means crafting a tasting journey that focuses on and compares the varietals of one region or putting together a longer escape to allow you to discover the many varied wine regions and gourmet delights of England.
Our history of bespoke wine tours around Europe spans seventeen years, and it is now a delight be at the forefront of developing British wine tours alongside our incredible vineyards in England, Wales, and Scotland. Our desire to explore our homegrown delicacies has serendipitously coincided with a substantial growth in and quality of English wine.
As the summers grow warmer and the climate becomes more suitable to winemaking, the English wine industry is leaping from strength to strength. Just a few hours outside of the country’s elite capital lie hundreds of magnificent vineyards waiting to be discovered by wine devotees. From small boutique growers in the depths of Cornwall to the more prestigious and well-known estates in Kent and Sussex, our local regions are among the well-known spots for England’s very own thriving viticulture, boasting critically acclaimed bottles of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Bacchus, and most famously matching the best of sparkling wines in continental Europe.
Let’s not forget, also, the lesser known and up-and-coming experiences such as the soon-to-be-announced Yorkshire Wine Trail in God’s Own Country or the revival of viticulture in Wales, home to award-winning bottles of unique still and sparkling white wines.
With so many regions to explore, from the home counties to foodie heaven in Devon, it’s truly a dream to now be crafting our bespoke English wine tours for the growing demand of our discerning wine aficionados!
Nothing quite beats a visit to a winery to discover the processes behind growing and blending award-winning wines, embark on a scenic frolic in the vineyards, and, of course, taste the winery’s prestigious cuvées and blancs de blanc to get a sense for yourself of exactly how the exquisite end product holds up amid its French peers.
Here in Great Britain, we are spoilt for choice with wonderful accommodation spanning the country, from glamping in the ever-serene Norfolk to stays at grandiose mansions in Sussex, from secluded hideaways with views of the Cornish sea to an experience in a 17th-century stately home in the Yorkshire Dales. You may opt to complete the blissfulness of a peaceful southern getaway by staying in a beachfront coastal lodge, while others opt to stay at an enticing luxury country house manor overlooking the vineyards — whichever you desire, tempting gourmet restaurants with locally homegrown products and heavenly wine pairings aplenty will see you dining like royalty during your stay.
A good wine tour isn’t just about the grapes — it’s about the seriously unbeatable food ready to tantalise your palates, the booming farm to fork gastronomy, the magnificent accommodation from luxury spa hotels to boutique guesthouses or historic manor stays. This is the lifestyle experience and Great Britain has been building up a repertoire of incredible adventures for an unforgettable staycation.
The author is Adam Stebbings, MD of SmoothRed wine tours.