Meopham Valley Vineyard
Like so many English vineyard owners, Surinder and his family did not have a background in wine before taking on the English vineyard - Meophams. In this wonderful English vineyard interview we discover the story behind the new owners and why they decided to switch careers and start making English wines.
Hi Surinder, welcome to the English Wine Collection’s Vineyard focus. Could you provide some background on yourself and the team at Meophams?
Meopham Valley Vineyard was established in 1991, by David and Pauline Grey. Due to David’s retirement, our family were presented with an exciting opportunity, full of possibilities, to own a vineyard. In November 2014, our family became proud owners of Meopham Valley Vineyard. My parents Ben and Surjit have always worked in recruitment and have around 50 years experience in the agricultural industry. Their passion for viticulture and their love for the vineyard grew over the last 18 years, having worked closely with David. I myself graduated with a degree in Financial Computing and have since been working in the banking industry. My sister Sarbjeet, graduated with a degree in Biomedical Science and she’s been working in the pharmaceutical industry ever since. As you can tell we have a varied skill set.
How did you get involved with owning a vineyard?
My parents approached us one day and asked, ‘Kids, how would you like to own a vineyard?’ I recall our immediate response was ‘YES YES YES’! In all seriousness we were both swayed to invest, when we visited the vineyard. I remember just looking at the vineyard from the top of the valley, where the sun just hit the tops of the vines, it was beautiful. We knew this was a rare opportunity to be a part of something special, as a family.
How would you describe an average day at Meophams?
The day to day running of the vineyard is undertaken by my parents and some employees. If you were to visit the vineyard you’re pretty much guaranteed to run into my parents. They’re very hands on and love working at the vineyard whether it’s pruning, budding, trimming, weeding, replacing posts, they do everything… Although I know my parents are there seven days a week, I have found my Dad doing other ‘important tasks’. For example, during our first year my father asked “I think we need to purchase a quad bike, as it would make it easier to move smaller equipment from one side of the vineyard to the other”. This was met with some scepticism but we had a family discussion and purchased a quad bike. On several occasions I’ve visited the vineyard, lo and behold I find my dad racing up and down like Nigel Mansell!’ So, if you ever visit the vineyard, you may get to see this!
Considering the size of England, there is a surprisingly high number of English vineyards, what would you say is key to your ‘terroir’ and therefore makes Meophams' wines different from other English wine producers?
The vineyard is located in the north downs of Kent, which is a cooler region of the UK. The site itself, is approximately 100 metres above sea level and the vines are planted at a density of 1672 vines per acre. Our vines are all planted on a gradient, a perfect terroir for capturing the sun’s rays. We’re very fortunate the terroir is suitable for cultivating seven grape varieties and can produce good yields.
Could you talk through your English wines? Which of your wines really stands out that you're proud of?
All our wines have won accolades, however I’m most proud of our Fine White 2015 and Union Red from 2016. Our Union Red which is made from a blend of four grape varieties is our most popular and my personal favourite.
English wine is still in a shortfall in terms of supply and demand. Do you have any plans to increase production?
Meopham Valley Vineyard spans approximately 25 acres of which 5 acres are used for cultivation of seven varieties of grape. We have conducted a number of surveys, to assess the suitability of planting vines in the remaining 20 acres of the vineyard. The surveys concluded, that due to the soil quality, gradient and cool climate, that these were fantastic locations to plant both early and late ripening grape varieties. We’ve been exploring the possibility of growing other varieties such as Bacchus, Pinot Meunier and Regent.
There is a wide range of English wines available in the market place. Despite this, new English wines are regularly being released. Do you have any plans to introduce a new Meophams English wine at all?
We currently have eight different styles available for purchase. We want to stand out from the crowd so for our still in particular, like to create different blends with our winemakers. This has paid off, simply from the feedback we received from our customers and wine tastings.
Other than the English wines that you produce, do you have a ‘go to’ wine of choice?
I personally like sparkling wines and one of my favourites is Nyetimber Classic Cuvée NV. As the tasting notes suggest the result is creamy and rich with notes of brioche complimented with a refreshing citrus twist.
Enjoying the ‘perfect food pairings’ for English wines can be a wonderful experience. Have you discovered any foods that compliment your English wines perfectly?
For our Union Red I’d probably suggest either sizzled lamb chops with spicy chickpeas or grilled pork with lemon, thyme and barley. For our Fine White I’d suggest roast salmon with rye, horseradish crumble and kale salsa verde or grilled chicken with lime, black-eyed bean salad & guacamole.
What are Meophams' plans for the future?
Although we’re a small vineyard and we’ve only been operating for a few years we have great expectations for the future. We want to plant on the remaining 20 acres of land and potentially plant new varieties of grape. We’re in the process of submitting plans for our wine tasting room which we would love to see built by 2021. This will play a major role in the future of our vineyard because it will allow us to conduct more tours, tastings and host events such as weddings. We firmly believe the sky’s the limit!