Rochester Cathedral

The halls of Rochester Cathedral will celebrate English wine this autumn, with a festival reviving a 1,000-year-old tradition started by monks. 

The Wine Garden of England Festival, in November, will host an array of Kent’s wine producers and to honour one of the county’s very first producers – a monk who championed viticulture at the cathedral more than 1,000 years ago. 

It is intended that The Wine Garden of England Festival at Rochester Cathedral, held at the crypt on Saturday 17th November, will become a long-term fixture in the UK wine calendar.  

There will be three, two-hour sessions on the day, and attendees will receive their own branded wine glass and will get the chance to meet the producers and sample 30 wines.

In addition, the organisers aim to create a wine trail that promotes tourism to the county, in partnership with Visit Kent.  

Spaces will be limited and tickets are expected to sell fast when they go on sale during the first week of September. 

The festival is being organised by the Dean and Chapter of Rochester and the newly formed Wine Garden of England partnership. The Wine Garden of England is made up of seven Kent wine producers: Biddenden, Chapel Down, Domaine Evremond, Gusbourne, Hush Heath Estate, Simpsons Wine Estate and Squerreys.  

Historical interest 

The event will be held in memory of Gundulf, who was Bishop of Rochester from 1077 to 1108. Gundulf was a monk who came to England following the Norman Conquest and is renowned for building several castles and cathedrals, including Rochester. 

He was also Kent’s first known wine producer, overseeing the care of the vineyards in the grounds of the Priory and the production of wine for the monks.  

Dean of Rochester Cathedral, Philip Hesketh, said: “When Gundulf died, the monks of Rochester held an annual wine festival in his memory, hence my inspiration to restore this tradition.”

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