While in the UK a couple weeks ago, I had occasion to go the country's largest vineyard in Dorking, Surrey about 30 minutes from my friends' home. The day was pouring rain - washing out great stretches of road at times so we did not tour the vineyard but had an excellent lunch with a wonderful dry white wine and made some purchases from the gift shop. I repeat some of the material from Denbie's website, including the link. I attach a couple photos of the estate in sunny times, looking for all the world as if we are in France and a link to many more images.
On top of Ashcombe hill (now Ranmore hill) was a farm where John Denby was at one time the farmer. The farmhouse was purchased by a Mr .Wakeford who sold the property in 1754 to Jonathan Tyers, the founder and proprietor of Vauxhall Gardens. He transformed the farm building into a modest Georgian House, which could be regarded as the first 'Denbies' House. …
The Estate now comprises 627 acres, 200 of which are woodlands, and includes 10 estate houses. There is no known connection between the current owner and his name-sake James White, who owned Denbies 200 years earlier who could well be the same James White who was a well known auctioneer in Dorking.
Adrian and Gillian White have five children, one daughter and four sons. It is for them that the Estate has been developed to optimise the use of the land with today's difficult balance between preservation and conservation, at a time when Britain's entry into the European Economic Community (Common Market) has made farming a questionable investment. Lateral thinking, because of farming's depressing position, led to the development of the Estate's south facing slopes, of little grazing value, into a vineyard. Dr. Selley, Professor of Geology at Imperial College, London and longtime Dorking resident, had suggested that Adrian White consider planting vines in view of the similarity of Denbies soil and climate to that of the Champagne area of France.
Subsequently research revealed that vines had thrived in the area previously. In AD 100 the Romans planted a vineyard at Bagden Farm, less than 350 yards from Denbies Estate. In Daniel Defoe's 'A Tour Through the Whole Islands of Great Britain', written in the early eighteen century, we read of Charles Howard of Deepdene House, laying down a vineyard on the south facing slopes of Dorking, "which, they say, has produced since most excellent good wines, and a very great quantity of them." It is interesting to note that in the early 1680's Defoe was at school near Dorking.
The vineyards of Denbies Estate are situated on the North Downs with its famous chalky soil, in a protected valley of south facing slopes. A total 265 acres have been planted which is three times the size of any other in the United Kingdom and has met the promise of producing some of the finest sparkling and table wines in Europe through repeated certification in the annual International Wine Challenge.
For a full history click on this site.
For more photos of Denbie's please click here.