Denbies Wine

First of the Summer Wine: Wine Tasting at Denbies Wine Estate, England

I’m sure if you asked any of the mums who have children living abroad they would tell you the same thing – that they miss their children terribly and never get to spend quality time with them when they come home. And I sympathise with them, I really do, but it’s a tough gig being an expat, particularly when it comes to trying to plan out the home visits, and non-expats can never really appreciate the long hours that go into trying to visit all the important people without killing yourself running around, and blowing all of your precious holiday time travelling (particularly if people are scattered around the country). I now limit the number of people I see per visit – it means I see people less often (maybe every other visit) but I get quality time with those I do see.

This trip has been a case in point. I spent a long weekend with all of my family together in a cottage for a big birthday celebration (read more about the fab cottage in Devon here) then five days with my dad at his home in Portugal, followed by ten days following my mum around for her work. It’s normally my mum who gets the raw deal to be honest. She works for herself so I normally make plans around others and then see her the rest of the time, and whilst we love spending time together, it has been remarked that we haven’t done anything special for a while, so for this trip we have plenty of fun plans lined up, and I’m happy to report it’s already off to the best start possible, with a morning spent wine tasting in a sunny vineyard!
With 300,000 vines, Denbies Wine Estate is the largest vineyard in the UK and one of largest privately owned vineyards in Europe. Located in Dorking on the North Downs Way, the estate produces 450 tonnes of 19 grape varieties, which fill 400,000 bottles per year.
It’s hard to believe that with such huge volumes produced on the estate, there are only twelve people working there. We were informed that nowadays a whole row can be machine picked in just three minutes, however the best wines are still harvested the traditional way. There’s still a lot of work to do however, when you think that of the 450 tonnes harvested, only 16 tonnes can fit into the press at any one time, and that the 800 heaters which protect the young saplings from frost all have to be filled and lit by hand.
The tour was a great little experience – three ‘train’ carriages were attached to a Land Rover which pulled us around the square mile of the grounds, along tracks which form part of the North Downs Way and which provided great views of neighbouring Box Hill. The informative guides gave us plenty of fun facts about the grapes, the grounds and the area – aside from all of the wine knowledge imparted, we also learned that there are two tanks from WWII buried in the grounds, that an area of scrubland is being recovered for environmental purposes, and that there are a colony of green woodpeckers living there! The guides were also very prompt and generous when topping up our champagne flutes (given to you for the journey if buying the upgraded package).
There is a brewery next door and a lovely gift shop and cafe, as well as a local farm shop selling honey and vegetables produced/grown locally, it’s not too far from Heathrow Airport and you can stay in the farmhouse accommodation there. I’m told that vouchers for this experience regularly appear on TravelZoo so it’s worth keeping an eye out!