Harmony and contrast are the juxtaposition of Squerryes ancestral estate with its modern and contemporary brand subtly creating places where people can connect with the wines, with fine dining and with events. Vineyard discovers how the spirit of the family motto ‘Licet Esse Beatis’, meaning ‘It is permitted to be joyful’ is at the heart of everything encountered at Squerryes.
Squerryes estate covers 2,500 acres, including 50 acres of vineyards, as well as extensive farmland, parkland and woodland. The Kent estate borders Surrey to the west and London to the north. At the heart of the estate is Squerryes Court, a late 17th century manor house which has been in the Warde family for 300 years. One of the first members of the family was Sir Patience Warde who was Lord Mayor of London in 1680. He is thought to have traded wool from the estate with the French for red wine – bringing pleasure to Londoners.
Henry Warde is the current custodian of Squerryes, but it was his father, John Warde, who began planting the vineyards in 2006. John Warde is the seventh generation, and Henry the eight generation of the Warde family at Squerryes. Although the current vineyards are a relatively recent addition to the estate, “local historic records indicate that there was a Roman centurion, after the Roman invasion, that was granted a swath of land and planted a vineyard on the land that is now Squerryes estate,” explained James Osborn, Squerryes estate Commercial Director. “I wonder what he would have thought of the vineyards here now?” he smiled.
Many years later, in 2004 a Champagne House visited Squerryes, interested in buying some of the land for vines. “When John and Henry Warde realised that the geology at Squerryes was similar to the ‘Côte des Blancs’ in the Champagne region, they decided not to sell, but to plant 36 acres of vines themselves. The Squerryes family now see the vineyards as a great legacy for the future,” commented James.
The land has proved to be perfect for sparkling wine production, demonstrated by the many awards, including Gold in the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships in 2020 and the Best in Show at the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards.
Squerryes are in the business of creating joy – from the maintenance of beautiful spaces through to bottling joy in the form of vintage sparkling wine. “The crest proudly adorns the Court’s front door with the words – ‘Licet Esse Beatis’ – ‘It is permitted to be joyful’. This motto is the spirit that defines Squerryes and our brand story, it is the beating heart of everything we do, from the wine we make to the spaces, places and events we create here,” said James.
The vineyards now extend to 50 acres and are planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. These include the ‘Rosé’ vineyard, planted in 2010 and the Pilgrims Way vineyard planted in 2006. The vineyards are high – planted at a lofty 150 metres above sea level on the North Downs, so are a degree or so cooler than other vineyards in the region. “This means cooler summers allowing for long slow ripening at the end of the season, and time for the aromas and flavours to develop. We are able to preserve a good backbone of acidity which is perfect for our long ageing,” explained James. “We only use grapes from our own vineyards, we are proud of our unique terroir and the purity of the flavours and aromas it produces,” he added.
John Warde still oversees the vineyard with the help of an apprentice, who will be attending Plumpton College from September 2021, along with a team of people who share their time in the vineyard with other tasks on the estate.
Places and spaces
Although Squerryes has a very long history, the restaurants started more recently in 2018. “We started with a summer pop-up lunchtime menu on the terrace, relaxed al fresco dining with seafood and sparkling wine – a perfect combination! This went so well so we created two restaurants here at the winery, The Terrace for ‘al fresco’ summer dining and the ‘Bottle Store’ for all year-round dining – connecting people to the Squerryes estate and our winemaking business,” added James.
The Terrace restaurant at Squerryes combines a stylish Napa Valley style winery with the delights of the Provence region of southern France; creating a stunning outdoor dining space with spectacular views across the estate’s ‘Rosé’ vineyard.
“We realised, that to bring people to visit, it was important to offer somewhere to eat and not just a wine tasting. In the UK people are more familiar with going out to eat, than visiting a winery – they feel comfortable. Many people, especially if they have not visited a winery for a wine tasting, would not necessarily know if they needed to dress up or wear wellies; to drive or not – and this forms a barrier to visiting,” explained James.
Lunch at Squerryes is an extended affair and tables are available from 12 noon to early evening. “This means that the restaurant can serve around 120 guests,” commented James.
If it rains then there is the option for guests to quickly re-locate to the covered terrace or indoors to the Bottle Store restaurant above the winery, with equally beautiful views across the Kent countryside. “The spaces are created for people to enjoy life’s simple pleasures with friends and family through delicious food and wine.
“The menu is designed by estate chef, Alexander Baillieu, whose focus is to create delicious food, simply cooked expressing the natural flavours of seasonal ingredients. We are lucky to have a bountiful larder on the estate and locally. We have a forager on the estate with a trained dog to hunt our own truffles! We have an increasing number of beehives to provide honey – and even the winery lawn has raised beds with herbs and other kitchen garden ingredients,” explained James.
“Of course, the food is complemented by our own sparkling wines and other wines selected by our resident Master of Wine, Laura Evans – including many contemporary English brands, such as Simpsons Wine Estate,” he added.
“At Squerryes we only produce vintage wines, in order to achieve the purest expression of terroir, allowing the fruit to tell the story of the year. But 2012 – despite being the celebratory year of the Queen’s Jubilee and the London Olympics – was not a good year for vines. The 2012 vintage was released after four years, but as it was not in keeping with the Squerryes style, the wine was withdrawn from sale. The 2012 legacy remains as the bottles have become a spectacular artistic feature as part of the Bottle Store restaurant wall. They also remind us that the weather doesn’t always do what we want it to do,” James exclaimed.
The impressive, Cork Room used for tastings brings to life the spirit of Squerryes Court and the Warde family ancestral story, with historical portraits and artefacts creating a sumptuous backdrop that mirrors the character and quality of the wines. “The private Cork Room is for our tours and tastings, and the many ‘props’ tell the stories. It’s a magnificent room and a popular space for corporate or private hire,” commented James.
Classic method sparkling wines
With the vineyards positioned high on the North Downs the fresh acidity that is retained allows for a long lees ageing – up to 10 years – and late disgorging. The grapes are currently pressed off-site, but the wine is finished on-site, while plans are developed for a new winery facility at the Pilgrims Way vineyard site. “The existing winery, which can be viewed from the Bottle Room restaurant, will become an exciting wine experience venue,” commented James.
Squerryes traditional method sparkling wines are multi-award winning. “We are proud to have won a gold medal for five consecutive vintages in the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships – a unique achievement for an English wine. In 2021 we won the ‘Best English Sparkling Wine’ Trophy in the International Wine Challenge and ‘Best in Show’ in the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards, which places Squerryes in the top 50 wines in the world,” commented James. “This demonstrates the quality of our fruit and dedication by the winemaking team,” he added.
Squerryes craft their wines using the ‘Great British Classic Method’, with only estate grown fruit and traditional method winemaking. “At Squerryes we are proud to display the Great British Classic Method logo – a campaign which is supported by the national body, WineGB, to communicate the quality of Great Britain’s sparkling wines created by this method,” explained James.
“Royston Labels have been the perfect partner throughout, from sourcing the best materials for the brief to working with our design agency to ensure everything fitted together. They have provided Squerryes with a much improved label solution, one that is befitting of our premium position in the market and highly recommend them,” added James.
Exclusive wine club
Around 55% of the wine is sold to the 2,000 plus wine club members. “Squerryes have worked hard over the last three years sharing our story – especially locally, within 30 minutes’ drive time,” commented James. “The membership has been so successful that we have now reached the limit and opened a waiting list. Much of the membership has come by word of mouth; as the saying goes ‘influence the few to influence the many’. It’s more than a wine club – it is a very special experience that members are sharing with their friends,” he added.
There is no joining fee, only a commitment to purchase 12 bottles per year. Members receive discounts on the wines and at the restaurants, but the key benefit of membership is exclusive access to the Squerryes estate with invitations to signature events. “These include the summer party in June, with its picnics and jazz bands, and an invitation to the harvest party and barbeque in October. Members also have first access and special rate tickets to the many cultural events including plays and concerts, as well as wine and food experiences. So, the membership is more of an exclusive access to the estate for members,” said James.
“The membership and signature events help to engage people and allows immersion into the brand – and our brand is meaningful – it is the permission to be joyful! In fact, our marketing budget is very small, as I think we have a smart approach to how we engage people and how we have built the brand,” he explained.
With the majority of the wine sold through the membership, remaining sales are in the restaurant and Squerryes estate’s ‘Flint and Oak’ farm shop offering the very best from local producers, including the wines from the Wine Garden of England. “We also supplied to the local Waitrose, three local restaurants, including The Pig, and four local wine merchants.”
Squerryes are one of the seven Kent vineyards which form the Wine Garden of England tourism group. “We are the first port of call when escaping London to experience the Kent countryside and explore the wines of the region.”
Celebrating British craftmanship and everything British has led to a natural alignment and partnership with Bentley. “We have shared values. Craft is about the importance of hands – Bentley’s leather seats are hand stitched; our vines are tended by hand. We will launch our joint events in September, one at Squerryes Court, and one at the vineyard. This will be an opportunity to introduce customers of both Bentley and Squerryes to experience the brands and the level of craftmanship,” explained James.
Squerryes ensure that sustainability is an important focus for all aspects of the business across the estate. “We have sustainability schemes in place for the woodland and hedgerows and invest in the natural ecosystems and habitats. Sustainability and celebrating seasonality are an important focus on our menus,” commented James.
The next chapter at Squerryes will see the creation of a boutique hotel, with restaurant and spa, on the estate by the Pilgrims Way vineyard. “The hotel with be a conversion of a lovely old farmhouse with 30 bedrooms and offer fine dining and a relaxing spa. Its close proximity to London means it will be the perfect escape destination,” said James.
Squerryes will be launching a new luxury wine brand at the end of 2022 or early 2023, that will celebrate the essence of long lees ageing, with a new name yet to be revealed. “With the high vineyards on chalk enabling the perfect acidity the new brand will capture the characters attributed to long ageing. With long ageing and limited availability, the retail price will be at the higher end,” commented James.
“The wines selected to be part of the story book and ceremony of the Squerryes experience could be classic cuvees or blanc de blancs, as long as they are 10 years old, with long lees ageing, and have achieved a gold medal in a significant competition. “The 2013, a classic cuvee, will be the first to be released. It will be launched next year to the members of Squerryes, the media, and selected restaurants and wine merchants. The label and packaging are still under wraps – so ‘patience’ is needed,” James smiled.
“Our vision is to be the Goodwood of the wine world by 2030. The Goodwood estate is a fantastic place for its members to eat, drink, relax in a spa, and enjoy sport – our plans are to create amazing places and spaces across the estate to experience the brand, where Squerryes is the social lubricant, and the spirit of joy is implicit throughout,” James exclaimed.