FIZZING WITH JOY

WE TAKE A TRIP TO SQUERRYES TO DISCOVER MORE ABOUT THEIR VINES, WINES AND WHY THEY’RE IN THE BUSINESS OF CREATING JOY…

Located just a half hour drive from Tunbridge Wells, and overlooking the stunning North Downs, lies Squerryes – English wine producers who have been in the business of creating joy since for almost 300 years and now they’re bottling it.
We’ve been invited to spend the day finding out more about the family-owned business, and of course, sampling their award-winning sparkling wines, so we head off to the estate, just outside Westerham for a day of joy.

Set in 2,500 acres comprising formal gardens, woodland, vineyards and farm land, it would take a good while to walk the whole estate. Thankfully, for those looking to explore there’s the option of jumping in one of the Squerryes Land Rovers, where you’ll be driven to different areas of the land, including the vineyard and the family home.
Our first stop is Squerryes Court – the beating heart of Squerryes, and owned by the Warde family since 1731. The current occupants Henry Warde and his family are the eighth generation to reside in the property and call Squerryes home.

Overlooking stunning countryside, and with beautiful landscaped gardens surrounding, it’s easy to see why this place is so joyful for the Wardes and everyone who visits. Throughout the year, members of Squerryes are invited to exclusive events, hosted by the family where they too can enjoy the beautiful surroundings, accompanied by a glass of something sparkling.

Above the front door of the house are inscribed the words ‘Licet Esse Beatis’ – Latin for ‘it is permitted to be joyful’, and this family motto is one they have adopted as their ethos, with the idea to bring joy to every element of the Squerryes estate.

Jumping back in the Land Rover, we head to the Pilgrim’s Way vineyard. The 35 acres were planted in 2006 and comprise traditional Champagne grapes; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Harvest is in full swing when we visit so we’re able to get a fascinating insight into the grape picking process, and watch as the fruit makes its way into crates, ready for the next part of its journey.

Squerryes benefits from a unique terroir – with the vineyard 400-450 feet above sea level, the highest vineyard in the South, and chalk soil with fl int running through, the grapes here thrive. Due to the altitude, hard frosts are rare which means where other vineyards may lose crop over cold winters, these vines tend to be hardier.

From the grapes grown here, Squerryes produces on average 20,000 bottles of wine a year, all made in the traditional Champagne method. The wines are all vintage rather than blended, and spend several years on the lees (where the yeast fermentation happens) before they’re disgorged.

Our time learning about the vines is up, and it’s time to head back to the tasting room to try some of the produce made here. The state-of-the-art tasting room only opened earlier this year, and visually it’s stunning – each wall represents a different element of the estate, from the one replicating the terroir to the wall reflecting the spirit of the estate. The room is both cosy and contemporary, and with an outdoor terrace overlooking the vines, in the summer this would be a wonderful place to sit and sip a wine.

Speaking of which, we’re presented with a flight of Squerryes wines to try – this forms the tutored tasting element of the experience, and is available to visitors for £18, where they’ll be able to enjoy three sparkling wines from the range. There’s also the option to add a charcuterie board to the tasting, and true to form, everything is British and as local as possible – there are Kentish cheeses, meats from London and Cornwall, and the bread is baked just down the road in Tonbridge.

The first wine to try is the Rosé 2014, which is a subtle pink with a fine mousse, and is made from 50% Pinot Noir grapes and 50% Pinot Meunier. This is lovely and crisp, but with strawberries and raspberries on the palette giving a fruity finish.

Next up is the Brut 2013, comprising 40% Chardonnay and 60% red grapes. On the palette the grape varietals come through and you almost get the flavour of lemon meringue pie with a fruit coulis. This wine also has a long, crisp finish.

Last, but certainly not least is the Brut 2011. This spent 50 months on the lees, and contains 45% Chardonnay – due to the Indian summer in 2011, the Chardonnay grapes thrived, and the wine even held the National Trophy for Best English Sparkling Wine in Tom Stevenson’s ‘Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships’ from 2016 to 2017.

This is a delicious wine; toast on the nose, and a creamy, marzipan-like fi nish with a hint of sweetness.
The tasting room is open on Friday and Saturday afternoons, between midday and 6.30pm, so it’s a great place to visit to either complete your Squerryes experience, or just to pop in before heading out for weekend celebrations.

Wine consumed and charcuterie eaten, there’s only one thing left to do, and that’s visit the shop to pick up a few bottles so that the weekend joy can really begin…

Squerryes Winery, Beggars Lane, Westerham, Kent TN16 1QP  www.squerryes.co.uk