Thanks for calling in.
Is it too early for a glass of champagne? Well, there's one on offer, the only catch is you need to be booked onto a Champagne Tour at Denbies Estate Vineyard in Dorking, It's not going to happen is it! Oh well, sit back and enjoy a few photos of the UK's largest vineyard on the North Downs, a most picturesque part of the country.
Of the one mile square estate, 265 acres were planted with vines in 1986. The new owner of the land Adrian White, who had been more interested in the house on the farm and woodland estate, had received a report from a local geologist, quite out of the blue, which showed that the particular conditions of the land - south facing slopes, chalk and flint soil, warm micro-climate in a sheltered bowl-shape - were ideal for growing grapes. The owner decided to give it a try.
15 different types of grapes are grown as shown on the map below. The same variety can be grown in different areas and get different properties depending on conditions. When I visited, some of the grapes had just started to turn red and in two weeks' time, after being tested for acidity and sugar content, harvest would start which would take about six weeks. There is no particular order as to which grapes are first, just when they are at the optimum stage. The Estate has one machine to pick the grapes, human pickers do the rest.
Each harvest is different but around 400 tonnes of grapes are produced, that's up to 400,000 bottle of wine. Here's a link to their website with more information.
I decided on a 50 minute outdoor vineyard tour on a little train which takes you right up through the woods high, high above so that there are views for miles over the beautiful area. There was a heat haze as it was a boiling hot day. Champagne was served to those with the right tickets at the top where the house is. Our guide gave us a talk and the train also had a recorded track as we hurtled slowly up the hill! The estate is called Denbies after a previous owner of the land, John Denby.
The visitor centre had an art display, restaurant, shop, accommodation and lots of different tours available. There's even 7 miles of public footpaths so you can just take in the ambience.
I'll tell you a bit more about the house tomorrow.
What a grand day out!