Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Hops & Vines Part 3

Day three of our weekend dawned bright, sunny and warm!   After a hearty breakfast we headed to Kent's oldest commercial Vineyard - Biddenden - which was established in 1969 as part of the initiative to re-introduce the wine industry to the area.  Biddenden Vineyard is reached via the quaintly named Gribble Bridge Lane.

The vineyards now extend to 21 acres, the grapes grown on a wine trellis system are harvested during late September and early October.  Pressing, fermentation and bottling all takes place on site and the vineyards produce White, Red and Sparkling Wines from the 10 varieties of grapes planted here.

Prior to establishing the vineyards, Little Whatmans Farm comprised of 45 acres of apple orchards and Biddenden's involvement in growing apples has not been lost.  Biddenden Cider Works produces high quality traditional Strong Kentish Ciders and farm pressed pure apple juices from locally grown apples.

It was a perfect day to tour the vineyard, set in the beautiful Kent countryside, seeing and hearing about the various grapes grown there and the resulting wines made from the grapes.  I've put together a little slide show of the vineyard, I think you'll agree it really is beautiful.

We were taken into the works where we saw the machinery involved in the wine and cider making process.  Biddenden produce English Wine, the difference between English and British Wine is English Wines are made form fresh grapes grown in England, whilst British Wine is simply produced from foreign grape juice.

Then we got to taste both the wines and the ciders and purchased some of course.   We're looking forward to sharing them, especially some warmed 'Monk's Delight Spiced Cider' - guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart.   If you ever find yourself in Kent do go and visit Biddenden Winery, you won't be disappointed.

Leaving the vineyard behind we proceeded to our next stop, Tenterden, known as 'The Jewel in the Weald' for some lunch, which we enjoyed sitting in the sunshine in the garden of a local pub.

Tenterden has a Fine High Street with historic houses, shops, restaurants and pubs.   William Caxton, who in 1477 printed the first English book, was said to have been born here.   Keeping guard over the town is the pinnacled tower of St. Mildreds Church from where once the signal beacon warned of the approach of the Spanish Armada, and where later Lord Nelson's daughter, Horatia was the wife of the vicar.  Unfortunately we didn't have very much time in Tenterden before it was time to make the lovely journey through the Kent Downs to Elham Valley Vineyard.

Elham Valley Vineyard was cultivated and planted by the original owners in 1985-86 but over recent years the health of the vines has declined, with the 2010 harvest being extremely disappointing the support stakes have inevitable rotted and need replacement.  The Trust wanted to change the varieties of grapes grown to be able to produce improved quality wines and an increased range.  With support of the Kent Downs Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty and The Brook Trust they are now embarking on a replanting project.

There is a small garden centre at Elham Valley which we were able to visit and though we didn't get to taste any wines we did enjoy a lovely cream tea instead.   Much of the work done at the centre and many of the goods sold there are provided by disabled people.  After a lovely day enjoying the Kent countryside it was time to head back to our hotel for a short rest before dinner and discussing the day's events.

I hope you'll join me for the last day of our trip in Hops & Vines Part 4.


A Lady's Life said...

sounds lovely. I went to a few vineyards and they were a very pleasant experience indeed.

Beach Bum said...

Great post and pictures!

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i don't know what cream tea is but it sounds delicious!

smiles, bee

Flowerpot said...

What a brilliant time you had - and good weather by the looks of it!

Akelamalu said...

Vineyards are just beautiful, especially when the weather is good Lady's Life :)

Thanks Beach x

Ah cream tea is Tea and Scones with jam and cream Bee :)

We did and it was Flowerpot :)

MorningAJ said...

I'm loving this trip! I just wish I could sample a few of the products. :)

Daryl said...

What a charming area and I love the history and the hops!

tony said...

I Cant Think Of A Better Way To Spend A Holiday.Yes,The Difference between English and British Wine is vast.And such A Shame That Most Brits Don't know the difference. A good English wine can match anything produced in mainland Europe.

Akelamalu said...

The sampling was great AJ LOL

Kent is called 'The Garden of England'for a good reason Daryl it's beautiful.

I agree with you Tony. In fact the only white wine I can drink without suffering from heartburn is 'Surrey Gold' by 'Denbies Vineyard' in Surrey - it's beautiful, available from Waitrose. :)

CrystalChick said...

We have alot of wineries in New Jersey. It's a wonderful thing!
Glad you enjoyed yourselves. Looks like a real good time.

Sandi McBride said...

I'm loving the tour and it's making me want to get back to England at least once before I leave this plane!!! Thanks for this

Ron said...

Well, being a wine lover, you KNOW how much I LOVED reading this post!

Awesome slide show! And yes, it really is beautiful!

And it's ironic you mentioned 'Spiced Cider' because a woman I work with was telling me that she had just recently tried Cider Wine and LOVED it!

Wonderful wine tour, m'dear!

Thoroughly enjoyed it!


Valerie said...

Great slideshow, Pearl. I kind of wish I'd been on this trip.

Dianne said...

I enjoy vinyards
they're always so pretty and relaxing
great photos

G-Man said...

Pour me....

Cloudia said...

history wine & food - my kinda trip!

Aloha from Honolulu

Comfort Spiral

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Gledwood said...

I could do with a cream tea meself!

Akelamalu said...

Oooh I must visit New Jersey then Crystal Chick! ;)

If you do come back to England Sandi I hope we can meet up. x

So pleased you're enjoying our tour Ron, you would love it if you could do it yourself. x

Maybe you could do it Valerie and get first hand experience. :)

Oh yes, you're right Dianne, vineyards are very relaxing and pretty. :)

a drink G-man?

Mine too Cloudia ;)

It was yummy Gleds :)

Linda said...

As silly as this sounds, I never really thought about there being vineyards in England as I would have never guessed that the climate was warm enough to maintain them. It's nice to see that I was quite wrong!

As Cloudia said, "History, wine, and food" - definitely my kind of trip!

Travis Cody said...

Sounds wonderful. We've got wineries to the north of us. Some years ago we enjoyed a train ride with a dinner up to Columbia winery. There wasn't a tour attached to it, so we'll have to go back one of these days for wine tasting and a look at the whole operation.

secret agent woman said...

Wow, I'm with Linda - it never occurred to me that wine would be made in England.