Vine + Country sounds fun, what is it all about?
It’s really simple, we’ve taken the things we most enjoy about life, good food, good wine and great company, added a bit of local experience and wrapped them all up in stunning vineyard scenes. It’s a beautiful recipe that translates well in any language or culture and is always incredible when your hosts have passion for what’s in the glass and on the table.
We work hard to create tours which celebrate the unique wines and foods which are honest representations of Kent & Sussex and for us the backstory brings flavours to life!
We’re both Sussex born and bred and at our core we are English wine enthusiasts and food lovers eager to share our love and knowledge of English wines and abundance of regional produce.
A Vine + Country Tour is a lovely place to fall in love with life, we want people to feel as welcome in our beautiful corner of England as we do whenever we visit somewhere new.
How long have you been going and how much demand has there been for what you’re offering?
We’ve been running tours since summer 2018. We started out by running a few pilots with a range of package tour itineraries to get a feel and develop our ideas. Very quickly our enthusiasm took hold, the food element took more of a centre stage and this past summer really snowballed, particularly on the event hosting side with wine clubs and hen-parties.
Now we’ve taken things fully bespoke with over 25 different partners, hand-crafting every tour for a unique feel, adding new food and wine lover products such as our at Home Wine Tours and adding chef’s table and wine pairing events.
Has there been any interest from overseas to discover the secrets pf English wine?
Yes certainly, there are some really interesting markets internationally looking for products with a difference and they really love to get behind the scenes which is exactly what we specialise in. We’ve toured groups from Norway, Sweden the US and even Singapore! They just love it, English eccentricity with all that viticultural flair, who doesn’t love that?
We hear a lot about the burgeoning wine industry in Kent and Sussex, how well is it doing?
The soaring reputation and growth have been spectacular but absolutely well deserved. There has been immense amounts of work, experimentation and innovation, it’s the most exciting wine region in the world right now! Okay so we’re biased but the hundreds of awards don’t lie.
Here in Kent & Sussex we have a perfect combination of soils, climate and terrain. We now have a dedicated college to the study of English wine production and National Institute or Agricultural Botany (NIAB) are experimenting into new grape varieties just for our climate.
This industry requires patience, commercial vineyards in the 70s were mad pioneers. It’s taken that long to figure out what kind of potential the climate and soils have for wine grapes and to figure out the road map for English wines. To plant the principle champagne varieties back then as is the norm today would have been considered crazy.
Here in Kent and Sussex, are we England’s premier wine region?
Without a doubt, and we’re seriously proud about that. There’s a good reason why 76% of all UK vineyards are in the South East including Surrey and Hampshire. Compared to the rest of the UK our wines get a head start here. The geology and soils here are the same as in Champagne and perfect for growing grapes for sparkling wine production.
Do you know how many vineyards there are here in the south-east?
Can you believe it, there’s over 118 across Kent & Sussex and there are more every year with so much external interest and investment. Only a handful of these, however, are yet open for public visits which is where we come in arranging private tours for behind the curtain experiences.
Rumour has it that our whites are better than our reds. Is that true? If so, why?
As red wine lovers, yes, sadly this is a sore point. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t decent red wines out there. We’ve had several and when they’re good they really are! But we just don’t have a consistent climate for red grape growing. It doesn’t get warm enough for long enough and so red wines come along on only the best years. That same climate on the other hand allows our white varieties to excel, particularly with sparkling wines since you want the fruit slightly under ripe.
But… things are changing and with ongoing experimentation the future is going to get red’er… probably.
Is global warming helping local vineyards to flourish?
There’s no doubt it’s playing a key role. Our summers are warmer, longer and dryer, making the challenge of growing high-quality fruit here easier. Furthermore, though it probably doesn’t feel it, our winters are getting milder and shorter.
The long-term issue with global warming though is not so simple as better summers etc… it brings the higher risk of extreme events such as sudden cold spots, heat waves and hailstorms. So, although it gives us greater grape growing climate with one hand there is the growing risk of freak damaging weather events looming as we’re discovering to our cost globally.
What happens when we get a cold, wet summer?
Ooo this could be a long dull answer but in short…not good. It’s an ever-present risk being this far north and not much can be done. Statistically 1 out of every 10 growing years is going to be a bit rough, with fruit that can’t ripen, disease and mould issues and lack of fruit can wreck wine makers nerves.
But there’s something so British and resilient about knowing that the grapes survived against the odds and became fantastic wine on the frontline of the grape growing world.
Why is English wine seemingly so much more expensive that continental, Australian and South African wine?
We answer this one often and it needs some perspective. English wine is a product of finesse, it takes a lot of time and effort, at least 3 years for sparkling before getting anything back for all that growing and making. Add to that expensive land, labour, marketing, packaging and taxes on top.
For our money though if you wanted something special then your money couldn’t be better spent. For comparisons sake you’d struggle to buy a champagne of similar quality for twice the money. Would you think twice about spending £30-40 on a bottle of great champagne?
In any case, we’re not saying anything that begins with B but shouldn’t we all be focused on supporting local?
To the casual observer there seems a lot of pretentiousness surrounding wine. All this talk of notes, whatever they are. Is that fair?
This is true, and at the end of the day pretentious, just a matter of enjoyment, after all hipsters love to get their note seeking noses deep in craft beers.*_
For us though, wine has one important purpose and that is to make us happy. We maintain that our experiences are all about leaving all of that behind, a good wine should start and end with a smile, all else is subjective opinion.
We allow our guests to guide us on what level they want to get into it. Every product made by man with love and care leaves objective clues as to its genesis, a glass of wine offers a story of 365 days. If our guests want to get into this specialism then we love to… and the wine makers really dig it too!