No longer is a decent bottle of fizz necessarily French. Alice Lascelles charts the rise of the British bubbles that are turning our tastebuds and the hotels at which to drink them
‘You must try this, it’s made by a lovely little winery just down the road!’ For the greater part of my drinks writing career I have dreaded hearing these words, which invariably preceded the sound of a cork popping on some acidic gargle from the British Isles. Lately, though, they’ve made me prick up my ears – because English sparkling wine has come a long way in the last few years. Thanks to a combination of global warming, heavy investment and clever planting of the big three grape varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier – wineries across southern England are now producing fizz to rival serious champagnes. Being served at 10 Downing Street, in British Airways First Class and by Michelin-starred restaurants up and down the country, the English wine market shows no signs of slowing down.
The 5 Best Hotels for English Wine
Visiting these often picturesque wineries has never been easier. Chapel Down, Wiston and Gusbourne have all unveiled plush new tasting rooms and visitor packages ranging from two-hour tours for £15 a head through to bespoke experiences combining behind-the-scenes winery visits with vineyard picnics and private wine dinners by top chefs.
Perhaps you would like to visit one? Here are the top 5 Best Hotels for English Wine.
The Pig at Brockenhurst was the first of the four boutique Pig Hotel’s to open. It’s an imaginative edible paradise from where the chefs take much of their produce, the rest sourced within 25 miles and their English Wines coming from local wineries Habledon and Cottonworth. From this abundant patch comes the inspiration for THE PIG itself, seductive and shabby chic, with a palette of soft greens and chalky greys, a wonderful Victorian-style conservatory dining room; a glamorous bar; billiard table; and outdoor courtyard. Bedrooms are calm, countrified and deeply comfortable, including fun family rooms with bunk beds for the children. The handsome Georgian shooting lodge stands in a clearing in the New Forest, with walking, foraging, tennis and spa treatments on offer.
Dating back to 1430, The Spread Eagle is packed full of history, character and charm. The hotel is made up of thirty-nine delightful bedrooms and a modern spa housed in one of England’s oldest coaching inns. Located in the picturesque Sussex market town of Midhurst in the heart of the South Downs National Park, this charming English historic inn has retaining its heritage, yet provides every contemporary comfort required. The bar serves sparking wines from the local village of Wiston and a gin with more than 70 different types available, making this the perfect destination for those partial to a Gin and Tonic.
Situated in Sissinghurst, one of the most picturesque corners of Kent, The Milk House is a village gastro pub at the heart of the community. A former 16th century hall house, with timber beams and a Tudor fireplace, this pub welcomes everyone, serving a selection of local beers, cask ales and priding itself on it’s great wines by the glass, including several from the area’s renowned vineyards, Chapel Down. The Milk House also has four beautifully-appointed bedrooms: two double rooms, one twin room and a family room which sleeps up to four people. Spacious and light, the rooms have been styled to feel relaxing and ‘home-from-home’, with comfortable beds, luxurious en suite bathrooms and scenic views of the village and surrounding orchards.
Set in the heart of London’s Mayfair, Claridge’s is the epitome of timeless elegance, and considered to be one of the best 5-star luxury hotels in the world. Having preserved both the physical and spiritual aspects of its unique heritage whilst adding all the modern luxury flourishes a guest could wish for. Inspired by the rhythm of the seasons, Michelin-starred Fera at Claridge’s brings a creative and natural approach to contemporary British cuisine, combined with a rare artistry of presentation. They also offer Fera at Claridge’s offer their very own homegrown wines including Davenport and Welsh winery, Ancre Hill Estates.
Inspired by the coastal motels you might find in California, this hotel is a relaxing hideaway from the stresses and strains of modern life amongst the dunes of Camber Sands. With great food, 20 bespoke bedrooms – equipped with plump goose/duck down pillows and duvets made from the best 300 count linen – and coastal gardens exclusive to guests and home to the Beach Hut, a spa treatment room and peaceful oasis to enjoy a deeply relaxing massage or facial. Not only has this hotel won Best British Beach Hotels – No 5, The Times Apr 2017, Sussex Restaurant of the Year – Sussex Life 2016 and UK’s 100 Best Restaurants – Squaremeal 2016, but they also have one of the best English wine lists in the country with more than 20 types for guests to choose from.
Prices start from £95 and always include a lovely breakfast table of homemade cold items and 4pm tea and homemade cake.