Toasting local vineyards’ success

The second Wine Garden of England Summer Festival takes place on Saturday June 10. Here the collective’s brand manager and the event organiser, Jo Smith, tells SO Magazine all about what’s happening at this year’s festival, which will be held at Balfour Winery


The Wine Garden of England is a group of the largest wine producers from Kent, who work together to encourage wine tourism to the county.

Jo Smith is the woman tasked with the smooth running of the organisation, so all wineries can communicate effectively and support one another.

“We all know that Kent is the Garden of England because of the abundance of produce that is grown here. In recent years that’s included more and more vineyards producing grapes that are used for some of the finest sparkling wine in the world,” explains Jo.

“English wine is winning global awards on a regular basis, and there are more vineyards in Kent than anywhere else in the country. The best way to sample the wine is to visit the vineyards, meet the people behind the label and wander through the vines that produced the wine in your glass. But the vineyards also come together at various tasting events so you can meet all the producers and taste their wines in one day.”

One of the ways the general public can do this is courtesy of the annual Wine Garden of England’s Summer Festival, the second of which returns next month.

The first one, which was held at Squerryes Court last May, was a huge success, with seven of the eight producers offering samples of their still and sparkling wines to visitors alongside a backdrop of live jazz and delicious food stalls.

June 10 is when the second Wine Garden of England Summer Festival takes place, this time at Balfour Winery, and Jo is very excited about it.

“After the success of last year’s event at Squerryes Court, we are looking forward to an even better experience for Kent’s wine lovers at Balfour this year. The interest in Kent wine is overwhelming, and we are privileged to be able to show our favourite wines to so many people in such a stunning setting,” she says.

“We have great growing conditions here because we have well-draining chalky or limestone soil that is perfect for grape production. More importantly, our climate is significantly warmer, drier and sunnier, allowing longer for ripening fruit with a higher sugar content and depth of flavour. We are now producing world-class sparkling wine, and increasingly good still wine too.”

This year the Festival will offer a free bus shuttle service to and from Marden Station throughout the day, meaning that you can leave the car at home and fully enjoy the wines on offer.

“Each Wine Garden of England member will be there to introduce their wines to the public and for the price of the ticket (£20) each guest will receive a free glass to take home, and have the opportunity during the all-day event to taste lots of wine,” adds Jo.

We’ll certainly raise a glass to that!



The Wine Garden of England was borne out of two Kent wine producers chatting through some ideas, and then realising that there was no formal group of producers that could benefit from sharing ideas and support.  After a few phone calls, six producers were sitting around a table – Balfour, Biddenden, Chapel Down, Domaine Evremond, Gusbourne and Simpsons.  Not long after, Squerryes joined, and most recently, we’ve welcomed Westwell.  Although the group love to chat about everything that’s going on with their businesses, the main aim that was agreed was to improve tourism to their vineyards, and to Kent as well.



The Wine Garden of England Summer Celebration takes place on Saturday June 10 at Balfour Winery. Tickets are just £20, and includes a tote bag with the latest Wine Garden of England Handbook, a beautiful Riedel wine glass and samples from each of the seven producing members:




Chapel Down






Jo says: “Each producer will have their own large marquee where you can chat to the producers, taste the wines, buy a glass, or a bottle to take home. It is set amongst Nanette’s Vineyard at Balfour, where the vines will be in their full glory. At the time of booking your ticket, you can also book a vineyard tour, and a place on the Masterclass hosted by Kent’s very own Master of Wine, Clive Barlow. All this with a backdrop of live music and delicious food, locally sourced and cooked by the Balfour chef.”


Spotlight on Masterclasses by Clive Barlow MW:

During the Summer Celebration, there will be an in-depth tutored tasting of a series of wines across the Wine Garden of England portfolio, lead by Master of Wine Clive Barlow, who started his wine career when working at the vineyard in Hampshire’s New Forest in the late 1980s. The work in the vineyard and winery inspired him to seek a career in the wine trade and learn more about the subject of wine. He became a Master of Wine in 1999, one of 415 around the world, and currently runs a wine retail and consultancy business in Canterbury, Kent. Ever since his introduction to English wines, Clive has been a keen observer of the rise and development of local vineyards and wineries. In 2019, he was one of the partners of the Canterbury Wine Festival – the first to celebrate the growing wine industry of the county.

He is keen to see a further development of the English wine industry and is joined by Corkk, an English wine specialist, based in Canterbury.


Session 1:

11:45 – 12:30 Blanc de Blancs

The sparkling wines of Kent are winning global awards on a regular basis, and the Blanc de Blancs, made entirely of Chardonnay, are possibly the most exciting as they are exemplars of expressing the soil, vintage and winemaking in a near-magical way. The recent discovery of the ageing potential of these wines has further enhanced the reputation of these wines. This Masterclass will explore and compare some of the finest Blanc de Blancs the producers have to offer.


Session 2:

4.45 – 1.45 White Sparkling Wines

The excellent white sparkling wines of Kent are, as in Champagne, made from blends of red and white grapes but using a broader range of varietals that thrive in our climate. In this Masterclass, discover how these blends reflect the true diversity of the producers, through viticulture and winemaking, in the Wine
Garden of England.


Session 3:

2.15 – 3.00 Chardonnay – the winemaker’s friend

Possibly more than any other grape variety, Chardonnay can be transformed by the winemaking yet still retain the varietal character. This Masterclass looks at how the growing environment and winemaking can influence the flavours, structure and quality of wines from the Downs and Weald of Kent.


Session 4:

3.30 – 4.15 Other White Varieties

Although Kent has led the way in Traditional Method sparkling wine, we have been growing a number of other varieties for longer than the holy trinity of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The wines that are made from other varieties are a revelation, and we are excited to share them with you in this Masterclass.


Session 5:

4.45 – 5.30 Red Grapes

Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and lesser known red varietals such as Dornfelder and Regent grow well in our marginal, cool climate, and have created beautiful award-winning Rosés and Reds. You’ll discover how we are competing with Burgundy and Provence with our use of red grapes in this dry and sunny corner of the UK.

Masterclass sessions can be booked as an extra when you buy your ticket to the celebration.

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