For Lyme Bay winemaker Sarah Massey, English wine is a true love story. We asked her about her winemaking journey, and how she fell in love with English wine.
Why do you love English wine?
For so many reasons! I think we’re so lucky to be a part of this English wine journey at such a crucial time. There have been a few decades of experimentation, finding good sites, pushing marginal climates, and experimenting with grape varieties no one has heard of.
Now we’re in this sweet spot, we have so much freedom compared to established winemaking regions, the world is finally taking English wine seriously. We have found grape varieties that thrive here, most excitingly for me Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but also as a country we have put Bacchus (until 10 years ago, all but unheard of) on the map!
We are producing world-class still and sparkling wines, as a country and as an individual producer. It feels like we are in such an exciting point in history as part of this movement.
When Did You Start Your Journey to Becoming a Winemaker?
In 2014 I enrolled at Plumpton College, to study wine. I spent ages agonising over whether to study the Business course or the Oenology side, as really, I wanted to do both! In the end, I settled for Wine Business as the breadth of the course would be helpful for many future endeavours, but along the way, I chose as many Winemaking/growing modules as I could.
I did my first harvest in 2016, I wanted to get a taste of real-life winemaking to see how I fared, I worked for a brilliant boutique producer in Burgundy, Le Grappin. It was the hardest work I had ever done, and I loved every minute of it, I knew then this was what I needed to do.
What Was Your First Experience of English Wine?
Sharpham Wine and Cheese (now Sandridge Barton). Fresh out of school I had no idea what I wanted to do, I had found out about these degrees in wine and was curious, so I asked for a job at my local vineyard as a longshot to see if I could find a passion in it. Much to my surprise they hired me, an incredibly shy 19-year-old, to work in the shop and do tours and tastings.
On my first day I got to sit in on a tasting and tried a selection of wines, I instantly fell in love, and conquered my fears of public speaking to run tastings in front of people. Finding something to be so passionate about and being able to share that with other people really helped me gain so much confidence. My colleagues now would not believe that person I was 12 years ago, as it’s hard to get me to shut up!
Why Have You Chosen to Work With English Wine Specifically?
I started my wine career with English wine, and since then I’ve been lucky enough to work in places such as France, California, and Australia while tasting wines from all over the world. A few years ago, I never thought I’d settle in England, but it drew me back!
Lyme Bay won me over with their ethos to be the best, it’s something we can constantly aspire to and use as a driving force. I never want to settle for anything less; and the wine industry, in England specifically, keeps me engaged, challenged and improving constantly. Exciting things are happening in this developing era!