Review: Wine Tours Of Kent - the perfect way to explore Kent’s finest vineyards
What I loved about it:
I loved how this tour offered such a relaxed, fun and informative way of visiting a varied selection of some of Kent’s finest vineyards without the need for a designated driver. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable, friendly and organised, and nothing was too much trouble. It was such a special way to spend a day with the girls!
Value for money (out of 10):
A relaxed, fun and informative way to visit some of Kent’s beautiful vineyards
The South East is fast becoming the go-to location for sampling English wine. With new vineyards popping up yearly and a wealth of fine wines being produced, Kent is firmly on the map as the ‘wine garden of England’. Yet, despite a multitude of wineries around the countryside offering tours and tastings, the problem until recently has been how to get around them all and still be able to enjoy a few glasses along the way. The answer: Wine Tours Of Kent!
Last week, I was invited (along with two of my closest friends) for a very special day out with Wine Tours Of Kent to experience all that their fabulous tours have to offer. The sun was shining on a balmy July morning as our wonderful tour guide, Emma, arrived to pick us up from our hotel in the charming market town of Tenterden. Greeting us warmly and making us feel extremely welcome from the get-go, we were shown to her spacious, immaculately clean and perfectly air-conditioned minibus to start our tour.
Set up in 2019, Wine Tours Of Kent is all about exploring and discovering Kent’s finest wineries in a fun and informative way. They offer full day tours and mini breaks for private groups and individuals wanting to try some of Kent’s award-winning and up-and-coming wines, whilst enjoying a day out amongst the vines. From long-established estates to passion projects just getting off the ground, the tours involve visits to a cross-section of three exciting wineries for tours and tastings.
Our first stop was to Chapel Down, located just a short 10 minute drive away on the outskirts of Tenterden. As England’s leading wine producer and with a plethora of awards to their name, we knew we’d be in for a treat when visiting this beautiful winery. It was also somewhere I’d personally wanted to visit for a long time, having been a fan of their sparkling wines for a few years now.
Starting amongst the vines themselves, our expert guide, Tom, gave us a comprehensive and engaging introduction into the English wine industry, along with the history of Chapel Down. Talking us through the journey that English wine has gone on to garner the reputation it has today, it was the ideal way to start the tour – and all against the picturesque backdrop of the Kent countryside and lush, green vineyards!
Tom then took us inside to taste six of Chapel Down’s still and sparkling wines. We started with one of their in-house classics, Bacchus (a crisp, clean white wine with hints of gooseberry and elderflower), before moving onto the richer Kit’s Coty Chardonnay which was equally delicious. The real stand-outs for me, however, were the sparkling wines. My personal favourite was the Rosé Brut which was refreshing, fruity and luxurious – perfect for sipping on a Summer’s day!
After a brief walk around Chapel Down’s pretty Herb Garden to marvel at the roses and dahlias, we returned to our minibus to continue with the tour. Our next destination was a gorgeous country pub, Chequers On The Green at High Halden, for a delightful alfresco lunch. Before making our first stop, Emma had given us menus for lunch detailing the options. With choices including woodfired pizzas, salads and fish & chips, we were salivating before we’d even reached midday! After much deliberation, we gave Emma our orders so she could ensure it was all ready for us when we arrived at the pub – another lovely touch which helped the day run so smoothly.
Emma dropped us at the pub and we were swiftly shown to our table, with drinks orders taken and meals delivered promptly with a welcoming smile. After all the wine at Chapel Down, we were grateful for some pizza and salad to soak up some of the late morning drinking we’d partaken in, but were also incredibly impressed at the food itself. My goat’s cheese salad arrived beautifully presented and was bursting with flavour, with crunchy walnuts and a sweet honey dressing, whilst my friend’s truffle, mushroom and ham pizza was also mouth-wateringly tasty. We enjoyed our leisurely lunch in the sunshine, all of which was included in the tour itself.
Ready for more wine tasting, Emma collected us once we were finished and we drove on to a much more recently established winery, Wayfarer Wines. Run exclusively by the Ashford family (and their trusty vineyard dog, Maple), Wayfarer Wines spans just over 8 acres, with the first vine planted in 2016. It was fascinating to go from one of the largest wineries in the country to one of the newest and smallest, and this smart scheduling was one of the tour’s real strengths. It really demonstrated to us the interesting contrasts of Kent’s premium wineries and the diversity within the region.
For our tasting, we were taken into the vineyard itself to a beautiful wooden table and gazebo where we could enjoy the wines and scenery. Unlike many English wine producers, Wayfarer specialises in still wines, and we sampled five of their white and rosé varieties. I particularly liked their Hedgerow Pinot Meunier rosé (such a pretty, coral colour!) and their Pilgrims Way Pinot Gris which was so light and mellow.
It was a joy to hear from our host, Emma Ashford, about her family’s vision for the vineyard and aspirations for the future, as well as the journey they’d been on so far. They pride themselves on their bottles being 100% made with recycled materials, as well as all being compostable and biodegradable, with sustainability clearly at the forefront of their venture. We also admired the bottles themselves, each with beautifully illustrated, bespoke labels depicting the Kent countryside and the Ashford family themselves. It all felt so personal and the epitome of a homegrown, family-run business.
Speaking of which, it was the views that really blew us away at Wayfarer Wines. Surrounded by rolling hills and fresh vines, we soaked up the sunshine as we sipped our wine and took in the panoramas. It was such a relaxing, tranquil and peaceful spot, and we felt so lucky to have it all to ourselves for our visit.
Our third and final stop of the day was to boutique winery, Herbert Hall, in Marden. Once again set in the most stunning location, Herbert Hall has been owned by the Hall family for three generations and is a real hidden gem tucked away in rural Kent. Now run by Herbert’s great-grandson, Nicholas, along with expert winemaker Kirsty Smith, it is a small but perfectly formed example of how to produce high-end, luxurious English wine.
Upon arrival, we stepped into the picturesque garden to be greeted by three bottles of sparkling wine on ice on a beautiful table overlooking the vines. What a way to round off our fabulous day! Kirsty gave us a brief history of the winery, pouring us glasses of their signature Herbert Hall Brut whilst we chatted and learnt about her background. Herbert Hall exclusively produces sparkling wines, all of which are made using the Traditional Method (as employed in the Champagne region). They even have the Royal seal of approval with a selection of their limited edition wines enjoyed by HRH Prince Charles, who is apparently a regular customer!
We then moved on to their Rosé Brut which was just as refreshing and flavoursome. Kirsty told us more about the winemaking process whilst we marvelled at our beautiful surroundings and savoured our wine. It really was the most relaxed and idyllic way to finish off the afternoon, and we could have quite easily stayed there all evening! However, after a while we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the minibus for the journey back to the hotel where we were dropped off feeling very happy, content and on cloud 9 from our fabulous day.
I cannot recommend Wine Tours Of Kent enough! We had the most wonderful day, and made some very special memories that we will treasure for a long time. Everything ran so smoothly, but we never felt rushed or hurried, and Emma was the perfect guide. The itinerary for the day was so well thought out, offering us a great variety of wineries and wines to experience, as well as a real insight into English wine. Though this tour was gifted to me in exchange for review, I really feel that, with our lunch and all of the tastings included in the tour, it was also fantastic value for money and would make for an ideal activity for a hen weekend, special occasion or gift.
Wine Tours Of Kent are currently offering a 5% discount on tours for any Girl About readers. Please use the code: GIRLABOUT when booking via their website.