In 1835, John Abbott wrote of his travels through the Southern States of the USA and of encounters with complete strangers, who went out of their way to make him feel at home. While he may have coined the phrase 'Southern hospitality' we like to think Americans are not the only ones who can show it. Take the county of Hampshire: there's no disputing its southern-ness, lying due south in the UK, with only the Isle of Wight further south. (Up until 1974, the Isle of Wight was still a part of Hampshire.) Add to that, the fact that it has two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (the New Forest and the South Downs), a county town steeped in history (Winchester), numerous stately homes and gardens, trout rivers, steam trains, beaches and famous movie locations, plus military and motor museums, an international airport & cruise liner base (Southampton), an historic naval dockyard (Portsmouth) and one of the busiest sailing areas in the UK (the Solent) and you can see we have rather a lot to be hospitable about.
Perhaps surprisingly for one of the most affluent counties in the British Isles, hospitality has played a large part in its continued popularity and in 2016 BC (Before Covid) £3.27 billion was generated by tourism activity in Hampshire (Now that's a lot of cream teas and fudge) .
Nestled in amongst all these attractions, and at the very heart of Hampshire's hospitality, is Hambledon Vineyard, a family-run winery, passionately producing such Fine English Fizz that it takes on the French at their own game. In blind tastings between 2015 and 2020, the Hambledon Classic Cuvée and Hambledon Première Cuvée beat the Champagne houses of Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, Moët and even Krug and Dom Perignon – making it the perfect gift for any Fizz lover. One of the factors for English Sparkling Wine’s success in Hampshire is the more hospitable climate, which is milder than most areas of the UK with above average temperatures and more hours of sunshine. (The climate is a contributing factor but the terroir is key: the chalk on which we grow our vines is the same as that found in the best Chardonnay areas of the Côtes des Blancs in the Champagne region). The Hambledon estate now comprises over 200 acres of vineyards and there's a Tasting Room and Visitor Centre on the way, expected to be completed in Spring 2022.
Hambledon wines can also be sought out in the many pubs, restaurants and hotels throughout the county - and indeed the country - including just down the road from us at the Bat & Ball Inn, an historic village pub opposite the original site of the oldest cricket club in the world, affectionately known as 'the cradle of cricket', Hambledon Cricket Club.
Hampshire's county town is Winchester and it was actually the nation's capital until the Norman Conquest of 1066, after which the honour shifted to London. It's now one of the smallest cities in the UK and as such it can be easily explored on foot. Paradoxically, its cathedral is one of the largest in Europe, where a famous Hampshire resident, the author Jane Austen, is laid to rest. (Her family home is also a museum in Alton.) Other famous names from Hampshire include Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale and the Iron Age entrepeneur Isambard Kingdom Brunel, plus more recently Ian McEwan, Alan Titchmarsh and Amanda Holden.
Hampshire is a county of contrasts where, alongside the more modern tourist attractions such as Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower, Winchester's Science Centre and Southampton's annual Boat Show, sit historic gems such as Buckler's Hard (an 18th century village where Nelson's warships were built), the Watercress Line steam railway, Lord Montagu's Beaulieu Motor Museum and Highclere Castle (these days more readily recognised as Downton Abbey), along with the stately homes and gardens of the Duke of Wellington, Lord Mountbatten and the Rothschild family.
Nature appears to find Hampshire hospitable too: otters are making a comeback in the Itchen and Test rivers (which are incidentally also the perfect waters for rainbow trout), colonies of mink have been discovered and wild ponies, fallow, roe and muntjac deer freely roam the New Forest. The latter is also home to a new breed of pig, one that offers fine dining, overnight stays and the full range of Hambledon Vineyard wines. The Pig Hotel, Brockenhurst
If we’ve managed to whet your appetite for the best of Hampshire’s Southern Hospitality, we’d be delighted if you join us at Hambledon Vineyard this Christmas. With a myriad of fantastic tours, tastings, and events (as well as plenty of Fizz to go around) there’s endless festive cheer and “cheers” to be had at England’s oldest commercial vineyard. All set within the Cradle of Cricket around the picturesque beauty of the South Downs.
Just follow our ‘Visit Us’ tab above to book your tickets now.