Vineyards of the Kent Downs

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17th June 2024

The gentle slopes and chalky soils of the North Downs make the Kent Downs National Landscape an ideal region for growing grapes and producing world-class wines.

As our climate has warmed over recent decades, vineyards have been blossoming across Kent and other parts of the iconic chalk ridge stretching from the Surrey border through to Dover.

Often referred to as the Garden of England, our region offers a perfect blend of soil and climate that has made it a burgeoning hub for viticulture.  In fact, the terroir – the combination of soil, topography and microclimate – is remarkably like the Champagne region of France, which is why the sparkling wines from Kent’s vineyards rival the finest offerings from across the Channel.

With many fantastic vineyards set against the Kent Downs to explore, this blog will be your guide to discovering the top winery experiences on offer. Cheers!


Vineyards in the Kent Downs to visit:

Terlingham Vineyard

Located near Folkestone, Terlingham is a small family-run vineyard with a strong focus on organic and sustainable farming. You can enjoy tours and tastings (complete with a cheese board!) in a scenic setting, with stunning views over the English Channel. Their commitment to sustainability includes practices such as hand-harvesting, not using any herbicides or artificial fertilisers, and even leaving the bottom row of grapes for the local badgers!

Simpsons Wine Estate

Known for its award-winning still and sparkling wines, Simpsons can be found in the Elham Valley. They planted their first vines in 2014 after being attracted to the quality of the terroir here in the Downs. With 30 hectares of vineyards now in production and a state-of-the-art winery situated just minutes from the vines, they offer a carefully curated a range of experiences including open houses and sunset sessions, plus a fun indoor slide!

The Mount Vineyard

Producing wine since 2008, The Mount Vineyard in the Darent Valley began welcoming visitors in 2016. They produce award-winning still and sparkling wines from grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Rondo, Regent, Bacchus, and Phoenix. Enjoy a guided tour and tasting or check out their extensive events programme, including comedy nights and yoga in the vines! The Mount also hosts weddings and corporate functions and is a popular destination for day trips and weekend visits from London.

Silverhand Estate

The largest organic vineyard in the UK, Silverhand Estate covers 500 acres of rolling hills in Luddesdown, in north Kent. One of the newest vineyards to open, they’re committed to protecting the landscape and are prioritising the health of the soil. Local sheep breeds are used to graze between the vines and English Longhorn cows are used to fertilise the land. Visit the Silverhand Estate for a winery tour, or sign up to one of their upcoming events, including meadow walks, botany workshops and invertebrate identification sessions.

Westwell Wines

Situated in the picturesque village of Charing, Westwell is a boutique vineyard on the slopes beneath the North Downs Way. The vineyard grows four varieties of grapes, each planted according to the soil geology of the site. Westwell offers intimate tours and tastings, as well as a wide range of events, including produce markets and supper clubs!

Brabourne Vineyard

This small, family-run vineyard sits at the foot of the Downs in a small village near Ashford. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines were planted here in 2014, covering just over two acres in total. They welcome small groups for tours and tastings, and you can buy wine from the ‘cellar door’ or choose to stay in their holiday cottage overlooking the vineyard.

Elham Valley Vineyard

Established in 1985, it’s the oldest vineyard in the Kent Downs. With new vines planted in 2011, the grapes have been carefully cultivated and harvested by dedicated horticulture students, staff, and volunteers of The Fifth Trust, a day care program for 170 adults with learning disabilities. Visitors can take a stroll through the vineyard’s beautiful garden walkway, which features around 1,500 vines, on a tour and tasting.

Squerryes Winery

This award-winning vineyard spans 35 picturesque acres on the historic 11th century Squerryes Estate. The Warde family runs by their motto ‘it’s permitted to be joyful’, offering weddings, parties, tours, tastings, and a parkrun amid the scenic grounds. Plus, with a restaurant, café, deli and cellar door on site, there are plenty of ways to experience Squerryes. Fans of Bridgerton may also recognise Squerryes Court as one of the sets from the hit tv series!

Why is chalk good for wine production?

The Downs in southern England are ideal for wine production due to their unique chalky soil. This chalk ridge, extending beneath the Channel, connects the Kent Downs to the famous wine-producing regions of northern France, creating a shared terroir that is perfect for viticulture. This connection is so significant it forms part of the aspiring UNESCO Cross-Channel Global Geopark, which highlights the geological and cultural links between us.

Chalk soil offers excellent drainage, preventing waterlogging and promoting healthy root systems. It is rich in minerals, particularly calcium carbonate, which enhances the vines’ nutrient uptake and contributes to the complexity of the wine. Additionally, chalk retains heat during the day and releases it at night, helping to regulate temperatures and ensure consistent grape ripening. The porous nature of chalk allows vine roots to penetrate deeply, accessing water and nutrients from deeper layers, especially during dry periods. This unique terroir imparts distinct, fresh, and vibrant flavours to the wines, making the Kent Downs a superb place for producing high-quality wines.

The Changing Landscape and Sustainability

The rise of vineyards in the Kent Downs reflects a broader trend of changing land use in the region. While viticulture offers many benefits, including economic growth and increased tourism, it’s important to recognize the potential drawbacks of monoculture.

Monoculture, the agricultural practice of growing a single crop year after year on the same land, can lead to soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and increased vulnerability to pests and diseases. However, many vineyards in the Downs are leading the way in sustainable practices, aiming to balance production with environmental stewardship.

Here at the Kent Downs National Landscape, we’re working on a Viticulture Standard for local vineyards. By following this standard, they will not only enhance their sustainability credentials but also contribute to the long-term preservation of the Kent Downs’ distinctive landscape. This initiative aims to balance the economic viability of viticulture with environmental stewardship and cultural conservation, ensuring a thriving and sustainable future for both the wine industry and the natural beauty of the Downs.

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