Today sees the official announcement of The Wine Garden of England - a formation of seven of the top English wine producers in Kent. The seven wineries are Biddenden Vineyards, Chapel Down, Domaine Evremond, Gusbourne, Hush Heath Estate, Simpsons Wine Estate and Squerryes. The group will collectively combine their efforts to develop a wine trail and visitor experience to really put Kent on the map, with an aim to develop a wine tourism destination to rival the best in the world. Together, the group covers the full spectrum of award-winning English wines, covering sparkling, still white, red and rosé. With a current combined 120,000 visitors a year, The Wine Garden of England already has a great foundation to build upon.
The seven producers certainly provide a fantastic level of diversity between them, starting with the likes of well-established producers such as Chapel Down, Gusbourne, Biddenden and Hush Heath. Emerging English Sparkling producers Squerryes, with their onsite restaurant and brewery, are certainly ones to watch. While Simpsons Wine Estate and Domaine Evremond, both pivotal new arrivals coming from incredibly well-established operations in France, provide a taste of the future.
Photo Credit: Thomas Alexander Photography
Asking Charles Simpson, Co-Owner of Simpsons Wine Estate, he had the following to say on being part of the group:
“Having been in the wine industry now for 16 years, you get a good sense of wine growing regions of the world and how they work together. There are some wine regions that treat their fellow producers as staunch competitors, never sharing ideas, failures and success nor thinking of ways to find synergies. When it’s done well it can really help raise the profile and exposure of an area. New Zealand would be a good example of a wine area that works together really well on a collaborative front.
The Wine Garden of England all started with us asking a couple of the other Kentish wine producers whether they ever got together to discuss best practice or look for ways we could collaborate. We were told by some people in the industry, that it would be unlikely that everyone would agree to meet. We decided to start small, limiting the group to 7 producers, producers that collectively farmed a disproportionate amount of vines in Kent. A call to each of the heads of those business resulted in unilateral support for a preliminary meeting to discuss collaboration."
Continuing on regarding the formation of The Wine Garden of England, Charles told us:
"At that first meeting (Feb 2017), held at the Swan Restaurant at Chapel Down, the group discussed opportunities to work together and having created a relatively long list of ideas, it was decided to concentrate, in the first instance on tourism and creating a Kentish Wine trail. We have many other ideas of how we might work together, but that is for a different discussion.”
The Wine Garden of England is part of a joint effort with the consumer tourism organisation Visit Kent. Sandra Matthews-Marsh MBE, CEO Visit Kent adds:
“We are thrilled to be working with this pioneering group of wineries to develop Kent’s wine tourism offer. Together we will further establish the county as a stunning rural escape and England’s own ‘Napa Valley’, where visitors are invited to relax and explore, tasting a huge range of stunning English wines, whilst learning the fascinating stories of these beautifully picturesque vineyards.”
The new website www.winegardenofengland.co.uk is now live, providing itineraries for weekend and day trips to Kent, covering winery visits, places to dine and accommodation. Visitors will eventually be able to purchase wines from all of the group members, as well as booking their tours and visits to Kent.
We're very excited to see this partnership develop. Having personally visited all seven vineyards during the last couple of years, many on multiple occasions, anyone planning a wine trip to Kent is surely in for a treat!