Sparkling Surrey: Englands’ first vineyard hotel

A champagne cork’s throw from Dorking – and 40 minutes from London – our wine critic toasts English plonk’s progress at a vineyard that feels like part of the local community

It’s an early autumn afternoon and I’m standing at the top of a vineyard. Below me is a sea of greens and golds, acres of vines heavy with ripened grapes – the harvest is well under way. The sky is azure, clouds scud over and butterflies flutter past. It could be the Loire, or even Sonoma, but in fact I’m just outside Dorking, in commuter belt Surrey, just 40 minutes from London Waterloo.

My trek up the hillside is part of Denbies Secret Vineyard Trail, an escorted tour round parts of the 265-acre estate that are not normally open to the public, punctuated, if this sounds too much like hard work, by tasters of cheese and honey, and glasses of wine.

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