Published: 06:00, 11 July 2021
A Kent vineyard has been named the best in the UK.
Tenterden’s Chapel Down was listed in top spot ahead of other brands including Camel Valley from Cornwall and Nyetimber of West Sussex.
Letting agency Holiday Cottages, which released the list, called the company “the world’s leading English winemaker”.
The brand’s CEO Frazer Thompson says he was “chuffed” to hear of the accolade.
“It’s fantastic news, I think, a real testament to the team we have got in Tenterden who do a fantastic job trying to keep people happy,” he said.
“I think we are seeing the genesis of a new wine region, which really doesn’t happen often; and it is happening at a time where people are staying home a lot more so they can enjoy it.
“In many ways, the pandemic forcing people to stay home and look for local alternatives to European wines has produced an interesting time for us.
“To cut through some of the more boring figures, champagne sales are down about 22% while for us Chapel Down wine is up by more than 50%.”
The company was recently forced to ditch its Curious beer and cider range - less than two years after it unveiled a multi-million brewery and visitor centre devoted to it in Victoria Road, Ashford.
Mr Thompson said the impact of the pandemic meant the situation was unavoidable.
“Our feet were very much in the fire, it was a heartbreaking decision but in the end one that was not hard to make, if that makes sense,” he said.
“The beer business sadly had too much competition and when the pandemic hit, 90% of the brewery’s business disappeared overnight.
“Every penny that we spent on that meant that we couldn’t spend it on the wine, which is an industry that is on a real role; all of the wineries in the county and indeed the country are doing an absolutely fantastic job.”
Private equity firm Risk Capital Partners acquired the Curious Drinks business and the 2019-built brewery from Chapel Down earlier this year.
The brewery, opposite the Hampton by Hilton hotel site, reopened in May as lockdown restrictions were eased.