going local: discovering english vineyards – hush heath estate

When you think wines and vineyards what is the image you can see in your head? Rolling hills under hot Mediterranean or Californian sun, beautiful casas for wine tasting – but probably not quite rows of grapes next to hay fields and apple trees with traditional oast houses in the background and modern bottling and tasting facilities in what looks like a  barn?

I’ve been hearing about local vineyards for a few years, but though it was more or less a joke and was quite astonished to find out that there are more than 50 wineries listed in Kent! And some of them such as Hush Heath – where we spent a nice few hours – actually have award-winning products (such as Balfour Rose by Hush Heath) and offer tastings and vineyard tours with lunches on a regular basis.

Hush Heath Winery in Kent
‘Modern meets rustic in Hush Heath when it comes to style’

And that is how we ended up touring Hush Heath in Tonbridge, Kent. It was some 30 minutes drive from our house, and I found out about this particular vineyard from one of those deal sites (Travelzoo in this case) and got a really lovely tour, tasting&lunch package for my birthday.

Hush Heath Estate
‘Walking tour of the estate. Across the hay fields towards the orchards and vines our route goes…’

I probably loved the outdoor tour part even more than the facility tour and the tasting itself: a good one hour walking across freshly cut fields, apple and pear orchards, acres of grapes in different varieties and even a trek across a dreamy forest – oh so memorable – and romantic!

Hush Heath Winery in Kent
‘Somewhat unexpected but beautiful view of a traditional oast house behind the rows of grapes…’

For the owner a place this far north and with such a small size is obviously more of an hobby than serious business, and the outcome is lovely an encouraging with modern facilities in such a peacfeul and rustic environment,

Hush Heath Winery in Kent
‘Clipped apple trees used for cider stretching into the horizon’

Row upon row of apples, pears, grape vines. Don’t expect Spain-type sunny hills only being used for growing, here in Kent the slopes are very slight and the estate has strict measuring system for lingering frost especially in the low-lying parts. Apparently a whole host of village volunteers will join in the frost watch and lit giant candles to keep the temperatures up and prevent frostbites when needed.

Hush Heath
‘Wine-growing is a very scientific and exact process where each row of carefully marked and monitored’

In the actual tasting room/bottling factory we got to see how the mostly automatic process worked for taking acids out of the bottles and adding fizz to the house bubbly. Fascinating and surprising to see how exact science the process actually is!

Hush Heath
‘The modern facilities were such a surprise for all I’ve ever seen before have included the traditional dark cellars with barrels-part…’

And finally the tasting time with jolly company of fellow locals who had heard of the vineyard via grapevine. We compared our tasting notes while sipping the roses, whites and a couple of the different ciders too. A very pleasant afternoon indeed…

Hush Heath
‘Cheap it ain’t. Interesting definitely. Bit too light and sweet for my taste buds, nevertheless I was looking forward to trying the Hush Heath wines and unusual ciders such as nettle’

The packed lunch is also worth mentioning: a selection of carefully sources (and beautifully packaged) local treats starting from freshly baked bread and cheddar to ham and special nut mix (which I absolutely loved!). All bar the pasty (not quite my style) were absolutely delicious and together this made a great, romantic birthday lunch – a quick escape of the daily grind.

Hush Heath
‘Tasty packed lunch with mostly local ingredients from fresh bread to special cheese and chutney’

If you have an opportunity to visit a local English vineyard I’d definitely recommend that experience, and more specifically I’d recommend visiting Hush Heath. The day was like a holistic treatment with something for all senses from the scenery and healthy walks to the tasty meal and drinks. Two thumbs up for Hush Heath and a final cheers with their Jake’s Orchard Sparking Cider!

Hush Heath
‘Tasting on a sunny day – life’s good!’

Follow the links below if you want to find out more about Hush Heath, Chapel Down or any other winery in Kent:

Visit Hush Heath Estate in Tonbridge, Kent {the very first English vineyard I’ve visited}

Visit Chapel Down Estate in Tenterden, Kent {recommended by my friends, next on my to visit-list}

Visit Biddenden Vineyard in Biddenden, Kent {listed in top 10 British Vineyards by the Guardian}

Visit Kent Vineyards site to find the most suitable vineyard for you from 50 options in Kent English Summer Adventures 2014

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