Explore England’s Vineyards By Bike
With the prospect of ‘staycations’ increasingly becoming a reality, we head into 2021 desperately searching for alternative ways to take a break this summer. Whilst for some, a day relaxing in the sun, feet up with a glass in hand, is the only way to wind down, others desire action, adventure, and the wind in their hair; so, is achieving both simply impossible? At Cycle The Vineyards, they believe it certainly is not.
Once upon a time, travelling to Champagne, the Loire valley or Italy seemed to be the only way to enjoy a luxury holiday whilst exploring outstanding vineyards. Now you need look no further than your doorsteps, as you’ll find international, award-winning vineyards right here in the UK. Warmer British summers not only mean more enjoyable cycling (and maybe a few extra tan lines), but also better harvests; the 2018 harvest reached record production numbers of 15.6 million bottles across England and Wales.
It’s not just the quantity of wine that has increased, the quality just keeps on improving too. At the 2018 International Sommelier Awards, English and Welsh wines won more awards than Champagne for the first time ever. At last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, English wines were awarded a record number of medals.
Cycle The Vineyards launched in 2018, helping cycling and wine lovers get to know English wines better through cycling tours to vineyards for tutored wine tastings and winery tours. Their founder, Will Males, grew up cycling along Kent’s quiet, country lanes. He believes that the southeast is still somewhat of a hidden gem for cyclists, who tend to focus on the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District, or further afield in the Alps and Pyrenees. There are plenty of challenging climbs and spectacular views, and the rolling hills give you a chance to get your breath back before you take on the next ascent. Their tours pass through several Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks, so incredible landscapes are guaranteed.
They have tours to suit all abilities and budgets. Their half-day, self-guided trips end at a vineyard for lunch and a wine tasting, while their all-inclusive, five-day, guided tours feature gourmet food and wine extravaganzas with all the trimmings.
“We want to create something really special for each guest, so as well as the wine tastings, luxury dining and accommodation, we like to include unforgettable, hands-on experiences at the vineyards” said Will. “In previous years guests have ‘disgorged’ their own bottle of sparkling wine at Gusbourne, and we’re now working with vineyards to create ‘dosage’ trials, where guests can experiment with the amount of sugar added to a base sparkling wine to make it dry or sweeter, before putting the cork in their very own bottle. At Chapel Down guests are taught a new party trick, learning how to slice off the top of a bottle in a ‘sabrage’ masterclass, which is always great fun!”
Their popular three-day Wine Garden of England Tour stops at four vineyards that are all part of the Wine Garden of England group, celebrating Kentish wines. The tour also highlights the best of local, seasonal produce, showcasing why Kent earned its moniker as the Garden of England. Guests will enjoy wine and food pairings, from platters of local meats and cheeses (and vegetables of course!) for lunch at Gusbourne Estate and Hush Heath Winery, to a five-course meal with paired wines at Squerryes Winery.
Small groups are led by local guides at a leisurely pace through Kent’s beautiful countryside, covering 30 miles on the first and last days, and 50 miles on the middle day. Setting off from Sevenoaks, you’ll be guided along undulating lanes through Kent’s High Weald AONB, before descending onto Romney Marsh on the final day. Romney Marsh has been reclaimed from the sea, so you can enjoy an easy, relaxed morning, spinning along pan-flat, traffic-free roads.
Not to be outdone by the wine or cycling, the accommodation is also an important part of the experience, with guests on the Wine Garden of England Tour staying at the historic Hever Castle – childhood home of Anne Boleyn – on the first night.
Deidre Wells OBE, CEO of Visit Kent, said:
“We are delighted to hear that our wonderful Wine Garden of England partnership is inspiring new and exciting initiatives such as Cycle The Vineyards. What better way to raise a glass to our county’s spectacular wine producers than taking in the sights and tastes of the Wine Garden of England on two wheels?”
Cycle The Vineyards creates bespoke tours for private and corporate groups, so whether you want to cycle further and faster, would prefer more time at the vineyards, have specific producers you would like to visit, or have a set budget in mind, they’ll curate a unique experience specifically for you.
Mountain bikers will be pleased to hear that Cycle The Vineyards are riding the wave of the gravel revolution, and have now launched off-road adventures along the North and South Downs. Each day you’ll enjoy sliding around on chalk and clay singletracks, through woodlands, along ridgelines with breathtaking views, and ending with a wine tasting and dining experience.
“With the rollout of the vaccine, people have started to regain their confidence and are now beginning to plan their summer holidays”, Will said. “Guests’ safety is paramount. Last summer we implemented a range of new measures to ensure our guests’ safety, whilst delivering the same unforgettable experience.”
“Virtual wine tastings have become very popular during the lockdowns, but nothing beats the experience of visiting in person and sipping wine amongst the vines, so we can’t wait to be able to start supporting our vineyard and hotel partners by taking small groups again.”
For your chance to win a self-guided tour for two to Hush Heath, visit: cyclethevineyards.com/bike-mag
If you’d like to book a tour or to hear more about them, contact Will firstname.lastname@example.org