The Value of Time
The virtue of patience in Squerryes winemaking
We place a great deal of emphasis on the value of time in producing our wines, to produce the very best expression of our terroir. Here, we speak with Squerryes director James Osborn about the importance of not rushing the finer things in life, allowing our wine time to impress.
What makes the Squerryes estate so special when ageing your wines?
We’re quite fortunate here with our terroir, as we have a very pure chalk vineyard on the North Downs, combined with an altitude of just under 150m above sea level. It’s certainly quite rare to have a vineyard at this height, especially with a cooler climate, but we’ve managed to harness the power of both that chalk geology and altitude to produce a really, good-quality fruit.
The altitude allows us to keep the fruit on the vine for a lot longer, meaning we get a lovely long, cool summer. While other vineyards in the south of England are harvesting around September, we’re not doing so until the end of October – sometimes, even the first week of November.
The ripening is longer, meaning we can harvest and protect a lovely balance of fruit acidity to natural sweetness, and we need that for ageing. Where young wines for some can be quite thin and lack impression, this additional time on the lees (the yeast in the bottle) creates a much richer, complex wine.
There seems to be a natural connection between time, and the focus on history and heritage in the Squerryes story…
It connects very nicely with creating joy and sharing it with people who are really interested in discovering the difference between an English wine that’s been aged for around three years on the lees, and one that’s been aged for 10.
We do a wine flight in our restaurant that enables guests to go on that journey and discover what difference that makes by letting nature take its course, rather than trying to force something. We see a lot of value in it and view it as the best expression of our terroir, as the chalk creates a real purity in our wine, and helps enhance the fruit acidity. The flight is a great way for people to understand that story and craft.
How much does time mean to you in terms of the winemaking process, and the final product?
There’s something quite magical, and sometimes a real mystery to releasing wines over time, not really knowing how that wine has evolved. That’s why we think that wine that has been left has a real chance to impress, giving a richness to not only the wine but the story behind making it.
This has allowed us to create a diverse portfolio of wines from young to aged, each with their own story to tell and the right to be enjoyed for very different, special occasions.
Add an aged wine in magnum (do read Henry Warde’s article about the beauty of magnificent magnums), which magnifies those secondary aromas, and you have a very special wine indeed.
Tell us how this translates on the Squerryes winemaking stage…
We’re finding that our late disgorged wines are being acknowledged as some of the best in the English market. For example, our 2011 vintage Late Disgorged Brut, with nine years of ageing on the lees, won Decanter’s Best in Show last year, and acknowledged as one of the best 50 wines in the World.