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.