Last of the Summer Wine
A vineyard tour is a popular part of a visit to France, called a winery tour if you are off to Australia, but what about Suffolk? Well with climate change and a combination of sandy and chalky soils there are a number of excellent vineyards to choose from. Make a holiday of it!
Oak Hill Vineyard, Fressingfield
A 3-acre vineyard topped by an ancient oak tree estimated to be over 800 years old. A beautiful setting, the vineyard is in the centre of the delightful mid Suffolk village of Fressingfield. Oak Hill’s vineyard was planted in 1987 with 400 vines of the Bacchus variety. Producing white wine with an attractive, fruity aroma, the acre produces between 1,000 and 3,000 bottles of wine a year, depending on the weather conditions in the Spring and Summer months. As the leaves change colour for yet another year, the grapes are harvested by a band of volunteers known as ‘The Plucky Pickers’. Three varieties of wine are produced dry, medium and oaked wines which are pressed at a local winery. You can buy Oak Hill wine by the case from the vineyard, by the bottle from Fressingfield Stores and whilst dining at Michelin-Awarded restaurants The Fox & Goose in Fressingfield and The Castle Inn at Bungay.
Take your time and stay at Oak Hill Granary, a charming cottage for two just behind the vineyard. Guests at Oak Hill Granary are treated to a chilled bottle of Oak Hill’s very own wine, an incredibly welcome sight after any journey. They are also welcome to look around the vineyard or picnic by the oak tree, or wander round the wildflower meadow. There is a lovely walled garden area complete with outside table and chairs. The property’s interiors are light, airy and modern whilst still retaining all the charm of the original building, flint walls and huge oak beams are combined with comfortable sofas and a bespoke kitchen, creating a perfect harmony between old and new. In the past the property has won a historic building Conservation Award, a testament to its fantastic restoration.
Shawsgate is one of East Anglia’s oldest commercial vineyards. The company produces a range of white, red, rosé and sparkling wines, and there is even a trail should you wish to explore the vineyard at your own leisure.
If you’re looking for nearby accommodation, Vine Barn, Otley is both perfectly named and placed for a visit to Shawgate; its central Suffolk location is perfect for those wishing to explore. Sleeping six in three double bedrooms, each with its own en suite you could enjoy a Suffolk wine tour with friends or family. One dog welcome.
A family-owned vineyard planted on the side of an ancient glacial riverbed near Long Melford, the Hall’s combination of sandy and clay soil produces high quality grapes, lending themselves well to a variety of wines. Combine your visit with a stay at Rowhedge Farm Cottage. Midway between Long Melford and Lavenham you could also enjoy a day out at each. Both are Wool Towns with long and fascinating histories and the architecture is unrivalled.
Wyken’s wines thrive on the sandy loam over chalk in its vineyards, with the company producing 12,000 bottles on average a year. The wines are served alongside Michelin rated cuisine in The Leaping Hare restaurant next door, featured in the Good Food Guide for 20 consecutive years. We would recommend Oak Lodge, Stanton if you’re looking for nearby accommodation. Just a couple of miles outside Bury St Edmunds and an easy drive to Cambridge there is lots to do during your stay at Oak Hill Lodge and after a busy day sightseeing you can sit back in the hot tub or relax on the deck with a glass of wine.
Dedham Vale Vineyard
In the heart of Constable Country, not far from Boxted, Dedham Vale Vineyard is seven acres of vineyard set in a former nature reserve with a recently renovated tasting barn overlooking the lake.
Father and son Ben and Tom Bunting run the vineyard along with a handful of staff. They have also planted vineyards in Mersey Island and more recently in Ardleigh to support the ever increasing popularity of English sparkling wine. They offer grand tours in the morning and afternoon, along with lunch and afternoon tea respectively, but also have a self-guided vineyard trail with informal tasting. The Bacchus 2015 is extremely pleasant, bright in the glass with intense citrus aromas and the dry refreshing taste of lemon and elderflower.
Stay at Stable Cottage, Semer, with an outdoor heated pool, play castle, fishing lake, stables and acres of meadows surround this outstanding barn conversion, you cannot fail to enjoy your stay in Suffolk.
Valley Farm Vineyards
Near Halesworth in North Suffolk, Valley Farm has around 3,000 vines. Elaine and Vanessa Tucker moved to Suffolk in 2013 to take ownership of the vineyard which was first planted in 1987.
They have added a tasting barn called ‘The Vinery’ and offer self-guided tours as well as tutored tours and one-off events for groups. Their passion for the vineyard and wine is very evident when you meet them and this is reflected in the quality and style of the wine which is more Alsace than East Anglia. Try the Suffolk Rose 2013 sparkling, a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier; persistent bubbles with melon and white plum aromas.
Just a couple of miles down the road is One Well Cottage, a delightful two bedroom property with pretty cottage garden. There is even a pub across the road for an evening tipple.