Eighth generation estate owner Henry Warde’s approach builds on a wealth of experience visiting the Napa Valley. It’s a wine region where consumer engagement, wine tourism and wine membership models have helped the vineyards to boom and, crucially, make money – something that is no mean feat in the early stages of building a local wine business. Squerryes is a business based around this same model. Much of the first couple of vintages of wine from the estate have been snapped up by early subscribers to the Squerryes subscription model. For a commitment of two 6 x bottle cases per year, members get access to the wine, a 15% discount, invites to exclusive events and a chance to be part of the inclusive Squerryes story.
I’ve visited Squerryes several times over the last few years and have been impressed with their wines on every visit. However, it wasn’t until recently that I encountered the complete Squerryes experience. Henry modestly describes it as “work in progress”, and, indeed, there was still work underway on another terrace overlooking the surrounding landscape (which I understand has now been completed). However, sitting in Kent, the Garden of England, on a Friday afternoon in the late English summer under bright blue skies, one could think for a minute that this could, in fact, be Napa. There’s a buzz on the wine terrace; tables are fully booked, and the ‘Seafood at the Winery’ menu is being lapped up. Of course, the Squerryes sparkling wine is flowing, the Rosé 2016 being the unsurprising summer hit, while the multi-award-winning Brut 2014 is being consumed in equally copious amounts. Henry is continually greeting and engaging with locals, regulars and members – again emphasising that inclusive approach to the estate.
Squerryes has been something of an organic project for Henry, from the visitor offering through to the winemaking process. The wines are made in partnership with Henners Wine Estate, with Squerryes having a say in the blending and assemblage at the nearby winery. Secondary fermentation takes place on-site at Squerryes, and the next stage will be to bring riddling and disgorging in-house. Long-term, Henry plans to bring everything in-house but only when the time is right. The primary focus has been on ensuring the wines are outstanding, and on building a strong customer base through the hugely successful membership scheme.
With approximately three-quarters of sales being direct to the consumer, one really gets the feeling that Henry has sowed the seeds of what will become a hugely successful English Wine venture. He looks at Squerryes Winery as a generational investment, creating the foundations for the next generation of the Warde family. No corner is cut, no stone left unturned; quality and reputation are built on hard work and patience.
The vineyard was planted in 2006, not long after a Champagne house had visited Squerryes in an attempt to buy a portion of the 2,500-acre estate. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the grapes planted were the usual trio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Sparkling wine is quite rightly the focus here, and patience is one word that you will hear mentioned multiple times during any visit to Squerryes. The quality and development of the wine have absolutely been the focus of Squerryes since day one. Forbearance has been essential here, ensuring the wines have adequate lees ageing (minimum 3-4 years), following minimum intervention in the winery, to deliver a perfect textural fusion of that signature, clean English fruit and welcoming autolytic integration of toasted bready notes. The estate also holds back a portion of bottles for late disgorging, and the Brut 2010 Vintage Reserve, with a stonking 82 months on lees, is a wine of gastronomic qualities; this is perfect for tasting alongside some of the more sumptuous dishes at the new ‘Seafood at the Winery’ restaurant.
Moving onto the food, of which the lunchtime menu is best described as seafood tapas: the array of ten or so plates of delicious morsels is perfect for grazing and deliberating over a glass or two of fine Squerryes sparkling wine, all while taking in the atmosphere of the vineyard terrace or the cosy new restaurant. Head chefs, Chris Reeves and Dave Marsaud, have sourced a selection of local Kentish ingredients, and the freshest seafood, to delivery an ever-changing array of delicious dishes. Favourites on my visit included Cornish Lobster Arancini, Portland Crab & Avocado Taco with Pico de Galo (a Mexican tomato salsa) and the deliciously indulgent Crisp Pig’s Cheek, Palourde Clams and Tomato. Every plate I tasted was delicious, beautifully presented, and designed to absolutely make the most of the home-grown wine pairing. A dinner menu is offered during evenings, including a selection of larger plates, with food being served both on the terrace and in an elegant indoor dining room which is embellished with items and artefacts that Henry has scavenged from eight generations of Warde family history.
The estate’s slogan, ‘Licet Esse Beatis’, is emblazoned on every bottle of Squerryes, and has been above the door of the Warde family home, Squerryes Court, for over three hundred years. It translates from the Latin to mean ‘Permitted to be Joyful’. I can’t think of a better slogan to describe the feeling that I, and all the other guests, felt on the terrace, overlooking the vineyard while birds and Spitfires flew overhead. What an experience! This is an English wine tourism must-visit!
- 21 Hectares
Squerryes Vintage Brut Reserve 2014
GRAPES: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
This wine is the latest vintage of Squerryes signature Cuvée which is a nearly equal split of the classic Champagne varieties of 35% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Noir and 31% Pinot Meunier. The wine spent 46 months on lees before disgorging in January with 8g/l dosage.
The 2014 has a bright nose bursting full of citrus zest and crunchy orchard fruit before you notice a rich complexity of toasted brioche, nuts and biscuit.
The palate is very well-structured, pleasingly crisp at first bite, before a riper pear and white peach streak takes hold. The finish shows more of that nutty complexity that the nose suggested.
That balance of ripe depth and fresh cut-through makes this young 2014 a superb and versatile food pairing wine, and it was even able to stand up to the boldest dish on the menu: pigs cheek and crab meat. Delicious!
- Buy from Squerryes Winery £32.00
Squerryes Vintage Rosé 2016
GRAPES: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
With demand for the elusive Squerryes Rosé continually on the rise, the 2016 vintage is the first that is a little more widely available. It’s a red-only blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier, and with the emphasis on this being a joyful, easy-drinking rosé.
On the nose, there are classic summer berry aromas and a twist of citrus zesty to keep things fresh.
To taste, again it's the red berries that really sing here; there are ripe strawberry and raspberry flavours, with a striking citrus and cranberry tang.
This is super-refreshing and with lovely energy that particularly complements shellfish dishes. Try it with crab-based dishes, and you’ll be in a perfect place.
The latest GBW round-up features a diverse selection of wines perfect for #EnglishWineWeek, including a tasty trio of English reds, two whites and two delectable English Sparkling wines.
As seven Kentish winemakers unite, John takes trip to Rochester Cathedral for the inaugural Wine Garden of England Festival.