Highlighting Women at Squerryes: Laura Evans, Master of Wine

On this International Women’s Day, we’re pleased to profile our Master of Wine and Estate Accountant, Laura Evans.

A key member of the team, Laura’s calm demeanour, endless wine knowledge and ability to interpret a spreadsheet makes her a valued member of the team. Read more to discover Laura’s journey into the world of wine and how she combined her natural ability with numbers with her love of wine.

From a very young age, Laura was passionate about wine. From vivid childhood memories of tasting Muscadet on holiday in Brittany, to browsing the shelves in wine shops as a teenager, her interest grew from being fascinated by the different labels, countries and prices and curiosity about what made one different from another. There can’t have been many teenagers who soaked the labels off empty wine bottles, even if it was at her mother’s insistence that her collection was getting out of control!

Laura also attributes reading Hugh Johnson’s book, The Story of Wine, to her fascination with the industry. It took her on a journey of discovery that behind every bottle was a history of old established families or new innovative winemakers. Her interest grew in the geography of the different soils to the biology in the propagation of the vines and the chemistry in the winemaking processes, to the creation of a beautiful product and the design of the label.

Working life did not initially take Laura into the wine world though. She qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG and began a career in the city. One day she went to a stocktake of a small wine wholesaler where it was clear everyone loved what they did. It was then she started to think how she could combine these two elements and build career in wine, leading to her taking a role in a small fine wine broker. This was also when she embarked on the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) exams, giving her a foundation in wine knowledge and leading her to the next stage of becoming a Master of Wine.

A lot of learning to be a Master of Wine involves tasting fine wines, which isn’t always an easy or affordable activity to do. Working for a fine wine broker, most of the bottles were far too expensive to open for staff to try, so Laura got most of her tasting experience by going to organised practice groups, teaming up with friends or just buying the bottles herself. The parties she used to throw to use up the dozens of almost full bottles she accumulated were certainly ones you’d want to be invited to!

Laura successfully passed her Master of Wine exams in 1994, just two years after the Institute had gone international and seven years after starting her studies. The exams covered theory (papers on viticulture, vinification, marketing and contemporary issues), and tasting (3 blind tasting papers of 12 wines each). At the time there were around 25 women holding the qualification but now the numbers are slowly levelling out. Current numbers stand at 417 members across 31 countries with 150 being women. As Laura says

‘Masters of Wine are lovely people with a shared passion. We have socials where we bring bottes, and it is not a competition to see who can bring the most prestigious or expensive but much more about what is interesting in the world of wine – up and coming winemakers, undervalued regions.’

Laura joined Squerryes 9 years ago when the business was very much in its infancy. In fact, there was just a cupboard full of the 2010 vintage which was mainly sold to friends and family. As the company accountant, Laura has seen it grow to include a thriving membership base, an award-winning restaurant, a Cellar Door and an Estate Deli and now she looks after the finances of the Squerryes Estate (a mere 2,500 acres with tenant farmers, industrial units and residential housing) as well as helping with blending and dosage decisions with the winemaking. Reflecting on the growth in the English wine industry, Laura says

‘English wine has come such a long way – when I first became aware of it in the 70s it was high yielding Germanic varieties which could just about ripen, producing semi sweet wines to hide the rasping acidity. The shift to sparkling wine was a game changer, led originally by Nyetimber. Climate change has played a significant part, but more importantly the increased level of knowledge and experience. Growth is currently exponential, with the land under vine having increased by 75% over the last five years, so when those vineyards are all in production we will have to have expanded the market significantly.’

Laura loves to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for wine, holding regular Masterclasses for Squerryes members and leading a monthly wine tasting group for the in-house team. One of her favourite parts of her job is curating the restaurant wine list and selecting the still wines for The Cellar Door, where she gets the opportunity to showcase old favourites and new discoveries.

Reflecting on her love of wine, Laura says

‘Once you have been taught how to taste wine, you never drink it quite the same way again. I always look at it and smell it before I taste it and think about it as I taste it, looking for the predominant flavours and the balance between acidity, fruit, alcohol and tannin. Choosing the wine for the restaurant and Cellar Door is an honour because as a premium quality wine brand, people expect a very high standard when they come to visit us so it is my job to make sure they are not disappointed, whether they are buying the cheapest or most expensive bottle. The selection is unashamedly biased towards my favourite styles but I still have to make sure that there is always something for everyone’

Over the years she has developed a real interest in English wine, Squerryes, of course, but also the great selection of still wines now on offer from Kent and beyond. Squerryes regularly has over 50 English wines to choose from in The Cellar Door, surely one of the most extensive offerings in the country. Laura is always on the hunt for undiscovered treasures, so the range is ever expanding!

When she is not drinking Squerryes Rosé, here are some of her favourites from The Cellar Door. Call in and try them yourself!

First Flight Syrah Domaine Bott, Rhone, France, from just outside the Cote Rotie region but at a fraction of the price this is an elegant Syrah with a beautiful purity of juicy fruit. Laura served this at her 30th Wedding Anniversary party – what better recommendation is that? £29

La Galopine Cotes du Rhone Blanc Domaine les Escaravailles, France

A self-confessed Rhone addict, Laura loves this blend of Rousanne, Marsanne and Viognier, bursting with melon and nectarine fruit, richly complex but beautifully fresh. £30

Lyme Bay Pinot Noir, England

Made from the finest Essex fruit, this wine shows what England can achieve in quality red wine – a beautifully concentrated Pinot with fresh bramble and cherry fruit underpinned by a touch of vanilla oak, great for special occasions. £35

Heppington Rosé, Kent, England

Not only is this one of the prettiest labels around if you want an attractive gift, but the wine inside is equally as attractive. From a favourite vineyard near Canterbury, this Pinot Noir rose displays delicious cranberry, pink grapefruit and cherry notes, and pairs beautifully with most foods. £17

Quinta do Crasto White, Duoro, Portugal

Portugal has a whole host of indigenous grape varieties which make a lovely change from Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, even if they are impossible to pronounce. This is a blend of Gouveio, Roupeiro and Rabigato with a very modern feel, aromas of citrus and white flowers, and an underlying complexity and refreshing minerality, very moreish. £20

The Cellar Door and The Winery Restaurant at Squerryes are open Wednesday to Sunday. Visitors are welcome to call in to The Cellar Door to pick up a bottle of wine, try a Squerryes tasting flight and talk to a Wine Ambassador about the wines on our shelves. The Estate Deli also offers some of the best of Kent produce and Squerryes Estate meats, honey and other seasonal produce.

The Winery Restaurant is open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday and dinner Friday and Saturday nights. With a range of a la carte dining, set menus, small plates, Sunday roasts or just drinks at the bar, take a look at our website for more details and to make a reservation.

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Event Date:
March 8, 2024
& December 10, 2022
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