Denbies Wine Estate   London Road. Dorking, RH5 6AA

It’s impossible not to be impressed by the long drive leading to the ‘Chateau-style’ Winery Estate building with its 265 acres of vines which make up just one-third of Denbies estate in total.  This is a busy commercial enterprise – offering various wine tours, a gift shop, several places to eat, a hotel, farm shop, bike hire and walking trails making Denbies not only a well-established UK vineyard but an entertainment destination in its own right.

The experience

We booked the Outdoor Vineyard Train Tour with sparkling wine which cost £14.50 each.  The ‘train’ (Land Rover Defender with trolley carriages) drives up to the highest point of the vineyard at 600 feet with stunning views of the Downs and Box Hill.  The tour takes about an hour – starting with recorded commentary which is continued in-person by the driver at the two stops.  At the uppermost point he poured our glasses of Whitedowns Sparkling Rosé NV as he told us more about the vineyard.

Situated in a valley on the North Downs, Denbies once housed a 100-bed mansion designed by Royal builder Thomas Cubitt.  Its current owner purchased the estate in 1984 and was advised that it was perfectly sited for a vineyard with its southerly aspect, microclimate and chalky soil and therefore the first vines were planted in 1986.

Denbies grows 16 grape varieties (Bacchus, Ortega, Reichensteiner, Rondo, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Müller Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Dornfelder, Solaris, Sauvignon Blanc, Dunkelfelder, Seyval Blanc, Regent, Madeleine Angevine) and can produce up to 500,000 bottles of wine per year.  Due to the scale the harvest is mainly mechanised and the premium grape varieties occupy the prime siting on the steep south-facing slopes. Denbies is one of the largest single-owned vineyard estates in the UK and with its own winery on site it manages the entire process from grape to bottle. 

On our return we checked into the Vineyard Hotel where we stayed overnight with friends. As there are a wide selection of Denbies’ wines available by the glass at the hotel it was a great opportunity to try these before making a purchase in the shop.  We ate dinner in one of the hotel cabanas which, like the bar area, has a magnificent view of the vines.

The next day we enjoyed a walk around the vines and woodland before browsing the Denbies shop where they were offering 20% off sparkling wines or 20% off cases of 6 wines.

Why you should visit

Denbies is a popular venue for all age groups – we saw many families with children and dogs enjoying walking, cycling (there is also a bridleway), and picnicking around the vineyard trails.  There are a variety of wine tours and experiences which offer an introduction to English wine.  The vineyard hotel makes for a fun and unique place to stay.

New learning fact

The French have a word terroir – which is used to describe how the environment can affect the wine.  We were given a great example of this at Denbies where the vines are grown across four different plots but the difference in altitude, aspect, climate and soil across even such a comparatively small area can cause the same type of grapes to develop quite different aromas depending on where they are sited.

Recommended wines to try

Sparkling Bacchus: this refreshing wine has a nose of citrus, pear and honeysuckle.  Its light, fruity aromas are also creamy and soft in an off dry style making it a perfect summer afternoon’s drink.

Whitedowns NV: this wine is an interesting blend of Reichensteiner, Seyval Blanc and Pinot Noir.  Medium gold with a toasty nose, tropical fruit flavours and a crisp finish. 

Surrey Gold: the UK’s best-selling English wine has a good nose with aromas of blossom, hedgerows and honeysuckle.  On the palate there are stone fruits and a little citrus. This blend of Müller Thurgau, Ortega and Bacchus gives an off dry, balanced wine.

6 thoughts on “Denbies Wine Estate”

  1. Just saying, that Canada has a whole new world of wine grown in the snow! Feel free to come and get drunk, I mean come and try them with a sophisticated palate

  2. Catherine Carter

    Wonderful article / blog. It would be lovely to visit somewhere like Denbies which offers a new wine experience in such a beautiful setting.

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