UK Wine Tourism: Kent & Sussex Wine Tours with Vine & Country

The UK Wine scene has developed immensely over the last decade. Sparkling wine has gone from strength to strength, still wines are improving and the UK wine tourism industry is growing year on year. This year, of all years, why not discover more of what’s on your door step. Discover Wine Tours with Vine & Country or go to one of the many UK wineries on VIND. Find one near you on our MAP.

We chat with Jamie & Steph from Vine & Country Tours to find out about their story and what you can expect on a trip with them!

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So, Jamie & Steph – you gave up your previous careers to start Vine & Country. Can you talk us through that process?

Well, it all started in a dusty office somewhere in the middle of the desert on a Western Australian mine site back in 2012. It was 45oC outside and I was working on an underground mining project 450km from the nearest town and from my window a vast horizon of bushy scrub in any direction. For me, in that career and in that time and place that view quickly became a metaphor for the rest of my life. I was 27 and I could see my entire life mapped out in front of me, and the mundanity of that idea, however easy and comfortable, was unsettling.

For Steph, that office happened to be in down town New York but with a skyline that offered no less of the same epiphany. Change is the strongest control we have on our futures, the opportunity to shake things up and create some exciting chaos in our lives is always there and it makes life much more vibrant.

I was very fortunate to be where I was though; I was living in Perth, when not off mining, and surrounded by the vibrant wine regions of the Swan Valley, the Bickley Valley, and the famous Margaret River. During my breaks I would inevitably head off exploring them, self-driving sometimes but often I’d join a tour from an independent guided tour company. I was always big on enjoying wine and I’ve been a passionate foodie from a young age, but I’d never experienced wine at source before.

Over there it’s amazing, the tour industry which has grown-up in support of the local vineyard regions is deeply established and it’s been made so easy for anyone with a little curiosity to jump on a guided tour from anywhere in Perth and the rest of the day is taken care of for you. It’s almost a no brainer and always a fantastic day out. It was from those initial days that my love and interest in wine and the people behind it grew; hearing their stories and their passion and the great degree of time worn skill it takes to produce it brought the wines to life. It was a huge eye opener, there’s so much nuance from one vineyard to another and the knowledge of how to make great wine from the vines planted on it is only earnt through time spent as their custodians, season to season, it was fascinating. It was such a human story as much as a story of good wine making and I dig anything that demands passion and good old fashion know how to do.


Wine Tours with Vine & Country

Jamie from Vine & Country

Gusbourne Lunch with Vine & Country

Vine & Country team

I grew up in East Sussex & Kent and back then I was aware of the young wine scene in England back then. It wasn’t even that long ago, but the hype train for English Sparkling was only just leaving the station. By 2014 I was desperate to find a way to migrate back home to Europe and East Sussex and to come up with a project to get stuck into and start a new journey… create some chaos. I had concluded, there are two choices in life; be a cog in the machine to build someone else’s dream or take a dive and build your own.

The eureka moment happened one sunny summer afternoon sat with a pint in an English pub when the dots joined up. What was the English wine scene lacking besides it’s growing promise and beautiful settings? …there it was… “Let’s build the greatest wine and food tours in England and show-off what we love about our corner of the world! We’ll do it by embodying the spirit of those great wine tours I’d enjoyed so much in Oz.”

From there the rest is history and it’s gotten a little out of hand.

I know you offer a range of Wine Tours with Vine & Country but what does a typical experience with you look like?

This is the best part, Wine Tours with Vine & Country are travelling celebrations of what connects us all, eating and drinking together. We take guests on privately guided explorations of a selection of vineyards across the counties, making sure they each differ in some way from one another, then wrap that experience around a fabulously long lunch served onsite by private chefs at the vineyards and add you.

We personally curate every tour and so which vineyards we go to is entirely dependent on our guests for the day making each itinerary as individual as our guests.

We’re big on hospitality and we love hosting and getting right in the front of the action, taking care of every detail from the cooking to the driving and that includes pick-ups from home. We want to make getting to these vineyards as easy as possible and of course, everything is private, which during COVID is essential.

And we do it all in a very relaxed environment, we want guests to feel relaxed around wine tasting, it’s not a competition or a challenge. We celebrate the prestige of English wines whilst leaving the pretence at the door.

We have all these wonderful vineyards producing world class wines and we have fabulous produce all around. All we do is bring it to the centre of one table and surround it with groups of friends and families, then we invite laughter and joy and for the most part, give or take a day or two, the sun shines.

Why is English Wine so special?

It’s not that it’s so special as much as it is just so surprisingly good! You don’t expect to find such world beating quality right here at home because it flies in the face of what we think we know about where it’s good for making wine. It needs to be warmer right?

Maybe that’s a British thing, we love to indulge ourselves by wistfully looking overseas at all the fabulous produce over there and chasing after it, and for good reason. It’s our cultural heritage as a former empire that we grew used to importing everything we found that was great and so now, perhaps we overlook the fact that our doorsteps are perfectly placed for the start of some incredible wine and food adventures. I think the current lockdown and restrictions to our usual lives have taught many of us to start looking at what’s around us and taking note of what a beautiful country we have, and by extension our local produce is too.

There’s of course a perfect confluence of factors such as the local geology, geography, latitude, and climate and this part of the world is a perfect confluence of those beneficial factors but it’s also a frontier. It attracts the most inspired people, people with a desire to flex the bounds of the status quo, innovate and imagine, and it’s a real hotbed for that. Creativity is alive here, from the fruit and the juice to the architecture of the wineries and the art of the labels on the bottles. It’s so exciting and it’s only getting better as climate change brings milder winters and warmer, dryer summers.

English wine is on the upward curve of an enormous wave and people’s heads are turning all over.

What are your favourite wineries in your Kent & Sussex region and why?

It changes with the seasons. Right now, it has to be Charles Palmer vineyards in Easy Sussex. Their log fire is always burning for us in their converted cellar door barn that overlooks the valley. They’re a working sheep farm as well as a boutique wine producer and the rustic charm of the site is just the sort of cosy you want right now. Plus, we’re working on a new project with them and the vision for that is so exciting. We can’t wait to announce it in the Spring.

Next month though, who knows, maybe it’ll be the Gusbourne or Tillingham Estates. There are some places that just light up in the spring when the buds start to burst and that’s where we’ll want to be all the time.

All of our partner vineyards are unique in their approach and backstory and they all bring something different to the party.

Why should people go on Wine Tours with Vine & Country?

Well, we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, we’re just bringing everything that we’re so proud off from our home region and blending it with everything that we love to travel for. When we visit a place, we make a beeline for the local market, to get a flavour of what the locals eat and then hunt for what they’re washing it down with. And when we visit a wine region, we seek out vineyards that aren’t shouting the loudest, who lie just off the trail but where you can still connect with the heart and soul of the place.

And that’s exactly what Wine Tours with Vine & Country is all about. We take you onto the vineyard trail less trodden, to the spirited boutiques and the family led producers where the wines are their life blood, and the people are all characters. Their stories bring life to the glass and the plate. And then we get to bring the menu, making a show of the best in season flavours found within throwing distance of the vines. You know, all that comes from years of experience living in a place. It takes time to brew that sort of local knowledge, but you can grab a flavour right here this summer and we’ll make sure every part is tailored to show you the best of it.



What other wines and wine regions around the world do you love or want to explore, when not enjoying the liquid produce from the Garden of England?!

There are so many. We’ve been lucky enough to have spent time exploring some brilliant wine regions and some lesser known ones. The Riesling terraces of Lake Geneva, Switzerland, were breath taking. I cycled the length of the Loire Valley (which is a whole other story), and that scenery, the food and all those wine tastings after wine tastings became a marathon adventure. The Trentino / Alto Adige valley of Italy, the supposed home land of the true traditional method if you can believe that; it certainly tasted believable. We also found some secret little DOCGs hidden amongst the blocks of Barbera in Italy and then in Spain discovering the homeland of sherry in Andalucía. All of them left deep and lasting impressions on us, mostly it was thanks to the people who hosted us and our curiosity.

I think we’d like to see how they do it South Africa, we hear so much about the scene down there and I think it could overdrive our inspiration banks. Then there’s Argentina, I mean it’s big, just such a big country and the BBQ scene alongside those wines, that’s got to be life changing. Closer to home we need to get lost in the Jura, there’s some great stuff happening there and then hunt for the ancient origins of wine in Georgia, Armenia and what about Romania… where does it end?

It was great chatting with you both. You can search for your next wine destination on our MAP or find out more about South Africa & Argentina in our JOURNAL!