English made grape-based wines are more widely available than ever and the High Weald is home to a number of vineyards producing red, white and rose still and sparkling wines.
Vines need a well-drained sunny site, ideally a south facing slope. They are planted in spaced rows usually supported by trellises and wires and have to be pruned each year to encourage new growth.
Different grape varieties are grown to suit the climate, the soil and the type of wine required in terms of colour, flavour and sugar content. Three widely grown white grape varieties in England are Muller Thurgau, Syval Blanc and Madeleine Angevine. Vines are harvested in October to November and may be picked by hand or by machine: five kilograms of grapes are needed to produce one gallon of wine. The grapes are crushed for about two hours in presses to release the juice. Wine yeast is then added to the vat of juice or "must" to start the process of fermentation which takes about three weeks and during which the sugar in the must is converted to alcohol. When the wine has stabilised it is bottled: this usually takes place at around 6 months after harvest. English sparkling wines are made by the same method as is used by the French in the Champagne region, undergoing a double fermentation process either in the bottle or in a tank.
Some producers in the High Weald offer visitors a chance to see how the vines are grown and processed by providing vineyard tours and trails as well as having a shop on site.