A Vineyard day out from London: Squerryes Winery
London: This city is known for its diversity. It satisfies every history buff to all food connoisseurs, abundant in royal parks and alive at all hours of the day if you know where to look. But for any true wine lover, the one thing that London cannot offer are vineyards. For those of you wine lovers wanting a mini-break from all the madness, I have a mini itinerary for you to spend the day out.
Today we are off to Squerryes Winery.
If you are travelling by train
You have 2 options. Hop aboard at London Victoria to Oxted train station (journey time is 40 mins and leaves every 30 mins) and then it is just an 8-minute taxi to the vineyard. Otherwise, if your preference is to start at London Bridge, take the train to Sevenoaks (taking 26 minutes and arrives every 15 mins). From there, expect a 12-minute taxi ride.
Where is Squerryes Winery?
Kent is the Garden of England, full of Oast Houses with their famous pyramidal roofs, and ancient woodlands. So, take a deep breath in of fresh country air and appreciate the North Downs where this winery is situated and one of Kents Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Situated in the stunning countryside as you enter the property you will quickly realise it’s not just the winery but a quaint little farm shop and for those beer drinkers amongst you, a Brewery: Westerham Brewery Tap Room & Shop.
Who are Squerryes Winery?
The Squerryes Estate has been around since 1731, and the estate is currently being looked after by 8th generation Henry Ward. The Champagne house Duval Leroy started conversations with the Ward family as they realised how incredible our soils are in the Kent region. Kent is blessed with the same free draining chalky soils as the Champagne region, and the potential is still being explored here. After the seed was planted from the famous Champagne house, the Ward family decided in 2006 to go it along.
Squerryres Winery production
They have 36 acres planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (the three champagne varieties) and currently make 3 wines. This explains why, as a winery, they are not so well known. With an average production of just 30,000 bottles a year there is no competing with the big dogs such as Chapel Down, who are also in Kent but reaching nearly a million bottles a year. Do not let that put you off, these wines are well worth the visit. If my opinion is not enough to convince you, perhaps their 2014 Brut wine can, with its Platinum award in the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards. That’s an impressive result considering around 17,000 wines were entered this year in the DWWA and less than 1% of these wines managed to scope this prestigious title.
They informed me that 15 acres more have been planted this March 2019, so the good news is that volumes are increasing. However keep in mind, vines take about 3 years to grow and produce anything of any worth. Besides, for anyone who knows about the patience required to make traditional method sparkling wine, their youngest wine, the Rose, is released after 24 months on the lees. So all this hard work with be ready for you to sample in just over 5 years.
Do not despair, if you can remember last years stunning and surprisingly sunny summer, this has resulted in an incredible year for our English vineyards. Squerryes have confirmed that we can expect 50,000 bottles from the 2018 vintage. And I also heard something about a Blanc de Blanc (a sparkling wine made entirely from Chardonnay grapes) being produced. Watch this space.
Winemaking at Squerryes
As Squerryes is so small at the moment, it wouldn’t be feasible for them to build a winery with tanks and equipment and so all wine is sent down to Henners winery to be made there. All wines are whole bunch pressed and go through malolactic fermentation to add to the creaminess which is part of their style.
Eating at The Seafood at the Winery
If you are lucky enough to visit the winery on a sunny day, you can eat outside on their terrace overlooking their sample vineyard. The vines here still go into the juice of their 3 fine sparkling wines however they can’t compete with the vines planted about 3 minutes away in the car along Pilgrims Way, an ancient route that runs from London to Canterbury. These vines are on south-facing slopes at 150 metres above sea level, all with chalky soils which is what the vineyards in Champagne have. They also rarely see any frost due to the air movement created by the M25, which is nearby. Who knew a motorway could have such a positive impact?
Tours will start next year to these fantastic vineyards. For now, though, you can happily nibble on Dorset chalk stream trout and Pickled Jersey rock oysters while having a wine flight of these 3 sparklers. 75ml of all 3 costs you £18 and considering the last one is a 2010 vintage; this is a very appealing journey to go on.
We ordered 6 small plates, a bottle of water and the wine flight for 2. This set us back £83 without service charge. It is certainly not a cheap meal, but the food is delicate, fresh and flavoursome, the views are stunning, and you get the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Anita, Squerryes’ Brand Ambassador talking you through each one of the wines making it a fantastic wine experience.
The three sparkling wines
It was explained this is all about joy. Printed on all the glasses is a Latin motto that is found over the door at the Squerryes Court Estate that translates to: ‘Permit yourself to be joyful’, and this is something that has shaped the winery and it’s attitude now and into the future. The Rose should showcase the wineries joy, and with all the lively fruit and juicy flavours, I think they are succeeding in getting the message across. This sells out early on every year, and there is currently no more available to purchase.
Around 50% of Pinot Noir and 50% of Pinot Meunier.
This wine is aged on the lees for 24 months, which considering many wine regions making traditional method sparkling have minimum ageing requirements of only 9 months, this is impressive. Lees are the natural yeast that lives on our grape skins. The longer the wine is in contact with these lees, the more intense the bready and biscuity flavours will be.
The aromas are elegant with plenty of strawberries and crunch fruits like redcurrants. Aromas of fresh green apples linger in the background along with delicate notes of brioche. The palate is fruity, soft with a creamy mousse. A beautifully dry wine with looks of vibrant fruit salad flavours and the red currants carrying through with some hints of biscuit adding complexity.
The Platinum winner from the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards.
Almost equal amounts of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
The wine is aged for 42 months on the lees. I am sure you can do the maths, but that’s almost 3 and a half years. This winery has really impressed me with their time ageing their wines to perfection.
The nose gives you loads of crisp green apples with layers of zingy grapefruit. Lovely savoury, buttery notes seep through along with some more brioche. The wine is vibrant on the palate with lively fine bubbles, juicy lemon fruit is mingled with all that intense green apple flavours along with a suggestion of clotted cream. The texture and the zestiness are entirely in balance.
This was their first ever vintage, which makes things special in itself. I am told we should also watch out for more library vintages that will be released under a different label.
Aged on the lees for 82 months. With nearly 7 years ageing with the lees, this is such a rich and intense sparkling wine.
40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier
The nose is like a baked apple crumble with roasted almonds, and hints of burnt toast dripped with just a touch of honey. Little hints of citrus are pushing through. The palate is rich and powerful with lots of crisp acidity still keeping the wine energetic. Lots of flavours of baked apples and soft and sweet brioche. A real competition for aged vintage Champagne. I would like to see how this is in a few more years
And after you have finished your wine, the learning, and your lunch, you are free to jump, skip and play within the vineyards – or at least this is what I did. If you ask nicely, Anita can take you down and show you a little bit closer the vine fruit. The rows are labelled so you can see the difference between the 3 different grapes. And after all that you can finish off with a freshly poured beer if you are all wined out.
Wine Garden of England
Last year Squerryes Winery joined up with 6 other Kent wineries, so with the hope that there is more strength in numbers, they are hoping they can create the Napa Valley of England. Click here to find out more about the wineries, the wine routes and events allowing you to drink local and embrace the English wine revelation that is well on its way.
Have you ever been to an English vineyard? Tell me about them on the comments below.