Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Chapel Down Vineyard

Kent may not be the best known area of the world for wine production, but it does have a few vineyards, and we decided to visit one of them.  Close to the pretty, sleepy town of Tenterden, Chapel Down is a well established vineyard that produces some great wines.  In fact we chose a Chapel Down sparkling wine for our wedding reception a few years ago.

We stopped off for lunch in Tenterden first and had a quick look around some of the antique shops, with my mum just about resisting the pigs and me just about resisting the glassware.  But we were soon off to the vineyards.

We have been around quite a few wineries, so we didn't bother with the guided tour and got straight down to the tasting.  Typically, the English weather has led wineries in Kent to use German grape varieties such as Huxelrebe, Rivaner, and Schonburger, often giving a slightly sweeter wine,  but the changing climate has meant that they now have started to grow more traditional varieties like Chardonnay too.

The staff were very helpful, friendly and happily very knowledgeable about the wines.  We tried seven whites and sparkling wines and enjoyed all of them.  Our favourites though were the Chardonnay Reserve and the Nectar Late Harvest, made from the Schönburger, Bacchus, Reichensteiner and grapes which are picked later so have high sugar levels for a sweeter taste.   It took great effort, but we did somehow manage to restrain ourselves to just buying a few bottles.  Nic was quite intrigued by the jams on offer too - the bacon and chilli bacon ones in particular.
We then had a quick walk around the vineyards, passing by the field of alpacas,  before we headed home.  We were tempted to ask them if they also sell the rather tasty alpaca meat, but we got the impression that they are just farming them for wool and didn't want to cause offence by saying we'd like to eat their stock, so we resisted.

We opted to take a scenic route home via the coast, including two of the cinque ports: Rye (officially part of the port of Hastings), where we stopped off for an indulgent cream tea; and Sandwich.

We spotted a few of the old Martello Towers along the way too.  Built in the early 1800s as coastal fortifications against a potential Napoleonic invasion. These brick monsters were thirty foot high, thirteen foot thick on the sea facing side, and topped with a cannon. More than seventy of them stood sentry just along the Kent and Sussex coastline, although many have now gone, or been converted.

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