Victoria Moore: Visit the English vineyards putting us on the map

Hambledon Vineyard
The days when English wines weren’t highly regarded are gone, says Victoria Moore, who guides you to some of the names putting us on the map... Credit: Mick Rock

The South Downs are under your feet. Before you, the shimmering greens and yellows of pasture and fields lead the eye down to the Cuckmere Haven where the English Channel glitters in the June light. This is a land of brown hares, round-headed rampions, skylarks – and vines.

Welcome to Rathfinny Estate. When the one-time arable farm was bought by former hedge fund manager Mark Driver and his wife Sarah in 2010 I was taken aback by the ambitious scale of their plans to transform the 650-acre site into the largest single-estate vineyard in the United Kingdom, producing around one million bottles of sparkling wine a year.

I now realise that I under-estimated the confidence of the Drivers. Rathfinny is not simply a wine producer. The estate has been conceived as a contemporary luxury brand. It’s a landmark: proprietors who felt English wine had enough traction to invest heavily in tourism from...

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