With the vast amount of plantings in England, particularly over the last half a decade, there are, and will continue to be, an ever-increasing array of new winemakers to discover. One such producer is Mereworth, which was founded in 2016 when William Boscawen planted the first vines on the family farm in Kent following a career in finance and marketing. Half a hectare was planted at first, followed by a further 2 hectares in 2017. A winery followed soon after, housed in an old commercial oast house, with winemaker, Scott Gebbie, joining in 2018 in time for Mereworth’s first commercial harvest. I recently caught up with Scott to have a chat about his journey, and to taste through his inaugural sparkling wine releases.
Despite his youthful appearance, Scott has already enjoyed quite a colourful career around the world in wine. Scott’s desire to work and travel first took him to employment in a vineyard in the Algarve. Next up, he arrived at a big winery in New Zealand, discovering the life of a travelling winemaker which led him to travel and work in Italy, Australia, America and France, amongst others. Scott’s time in France and passion for sparkling wine ultimately led him to Champagne, where he wrote his thesis on the impact of New World viticulture and its effect on Champagne. Ultimately, things went full circle, and he arrived back home in Kent, where Scott grew up, to build on his experiences with a producer right at the beginning of their winemaking journey.
I asked Scott what his thoughts were after working on the first few vintages at Mereworth after travelling to and working in some of the greatest winemaking regions in the world: “Something that I like here, in the wines that we have been making, is that they are quite textural wines. They show that we can have levels of complexity in sparkling wine; they don’t just need to be for aperitifs as we can sit down and have them with food…also showing through the wines that we can achieve a really good level of maturity. We’re not making sparkling wines because we have to. We’re making sparkling wines because we can do it really well.”
Photos with thanks to Saltwick Media (@saltwick)
Of the wines that Mereworth have released so far are a very limited (sold out) White from Black 2018, White from White 2018 and Rosé 2019. With the 2018s forming just a couple of thousand bottles from a tiny first harvest, bigger volumes have kicked in from 2019, with the winery producing ten thousand bottles annually from here on. The 2019 White from White is expected at the end of the year, while the 2020 vintage is split equally between Rosé, White from White and White from Black. And that brings us nicely to the Mereworth branding and slightly quirky choice of naming on the labels.
Scott explained to me that the goal at Mereworth was to make approachable but generous sparkling wines. They also wanted to make the wines accessible from a marketing point of view. While terms like Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs are familiar to sparkling wine connoisseurs, they don’t necessarily mean that much to the general consumer. So the French words and traditional gold foils have been stripped away and been replaced by a very British ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ approach. The branding is distinctive, striking and modern, and I think it taps in nicely to that approachable, expressive style that is evident in the wine inside the bottles.
With the new-look wines just hitting the market last month, Mereworth have also just opened their doors to the public. Visitors are taken to the heart of the operation in the tasting room which has tables set within the winery itself. Tours and tastings can be booked through the Mereworth website (link below) and are hosted by either William or Scott.
Mereworth Rosé 2019
Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
The Mereworth Rosé 2019, a blend of 96% Pinot Noir and 4% Pinot Meunier, is part of a duo of new-look releases. The wine has spent around a year on lees, and so has an expression that leans towards fruit-forward.
The nose is really appealing, with aromas of cranberry, cherry and raspberry, hints of honeyed peach and also citrus.
Taste-wise, this rosé has lavish flavours of summer red berries. For such a young release (this is quite possibly the first 2019 sparkling I’ve tasted), it’s already very approachable, with ripe cherry and strawberry as well as honeyed stone fruit.
This is a very playful and surprisingly deep rosé with vinous charms that are sure to be crowd-pleasing in the sun.
Mereworth White from White 2018
Made from the first tiny vintage at Mereworth, this White from White (made from 100% Chardonnay) is a taste of things to come from them.
Aromatically, this wine is clean and bright, with green apple, hints of pear and a dash of white peach, as well as the characteristic zesty citrus notes.
To taste, it’s unapologetically crisp, led by crunchy green orchard fruit and zesty lemon. It’s got that classic Blanc de Blancs character, but with a radiance that comes with youth.
There’s some real potential here, though I can’t help but think it will be considerably more balanced given another couple of years in bottle.
Photo with thanks to Saltwick Media (@saltwick)