Vineyard Manager at Squerryes – Richard Dyson

28th July 2023

Vineyard Manager at Squerryes - Richard Dyson

Without the grape, wine can’t be created, so each year an army of Vineyard Managers venture out into the vines to care, tend and nurture the growth of the grapes, to help the winemakers produce an exceptional glass of bubbly.

This series of Vineyard Manager Interviews will help you uncover the vast world and skills of how the people passionate about wine make the world a bubbly place.

In this article we speak with Richard Dyson, an amazing Vineyard Manager from England, let’s discover a little about his time in the English Sparkling Wine Industry.

Tell Us About Yourself

“Growing up in Cornwall, where my father was a vet and my uncle farmed, the countryside was my natural habitat, helping to bring the cows in for milking, driving tractors and other exciting activities. But I was drawn to London after university, working for several large investment firms where I managed corporate relationships. We moved to Kent in 2002, in part to reconnect with the countryside that I loved so much as a youngster.”

How Did You Become Involved In The Wine Industry?

“Having reached an inflexion point in my career, I decided that it was time to quit the bustle of the City. I’ve long had a fascination of wine, including investing in en primeur releases every year from the late 1990s so in planning my next steps, it was logical to explore this world further. I had time to study Level 2 and Level 3 WSET and I helped with a couple of harvests in England in 2018. I worked for Squerryes as an ambassador, running tours and tastings in 2019, which I loved. I had to scratch an itch, though, so I took a job at Majestic Wine in Sevenoaks, spending 15 months there. However, at the start of 2021 I was approached by Henry Warde, owner of Squerryes, who asked if I would be interested in running the vineyard, taking over the reins from his father, John. One of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make!”

As The Vineyard Manager, What Challenges Do You Find Yourself Facing Each Year?

“Amid all the excitement about English wine and on the back of the heatwave of summer 2022, it’s easy to forget that we are still operating in a marginal climate. And when the changeable nature of the English climate isn’t a worry, we still have to contend with a myriad of other issues, particularly disease pressures. Keeping track of vine health is vital and is a full time job, whether assessing the vines when pruning through the winter months or tracking the development of the shoots, canopy and fruit through the growing season. Anticipating issues and responding to adverse weather conditions is also important, while making sure that I have sufficient experienced staff available to complete the various tasks at the right time can be another challenge.”

What Is The Most Exciting Part Of Managing A Vineyard?

“I think that’s a tricky question, simply because there is so much that is exciting. The promise of the year ahead when we are in the middle of pruning and there’s a frost on the vineyard floor; the thrill of seeing budburst, knowing that the season is underway; inflorescences; veraison; harvest. But I think I would probably settle on the sheer joy and thrill of being responsible for 20 hectares of vines that have produced some world class sparkling wines from the very first vintage.”

How Do You See the Future Of English Sparkling Wine?

“The future for English sparkling wine looks really exciting. There is a real buzz around the industry which, as a relative newcomer, is thrilling and invigorating. There is a real passion and a growing realisation from English consumers that there is a world class wine industry on their doorstep. We have some amazing vineyards producing fantastic fruit, and some very talented winemakers working their magic too.”

What’s A Day In The Life Of A Vineyard Manager Entail?

“A typical day will usually start with a walk around the vineyard, accompanied by my Labrador, Hebe, checking over the health of the vines and making a few notes. It’s also a good time to be thinking about what’s coming up over the next few days or so. Most of the time, the job is hands on, being part of the team. This means that I am keeping in touch with my team, in particular my very experienced team leader, so able to have conversations about the work and importantly the development of the vines. I can also make sure that the team are executing specific tasks with sufficient precision, such as tying down, bud rubbing or shoot selection. I may be in the tractor, or discussing the spray program with our tractor driver, or catching up with Henry or John, if they are on site. Every day is different, and that’s fun. But it’s also exciting, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a working day.”

Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?

“So many occasions to choose from! The terrace restaurant at Squerryes, overlooking the vineyard, has to be one of them (with a glass of Blanc de Blanc). But I’d also have to say Cornwall, in particular celebrating my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary in the garden on the Roseland peninsular, with a magnum of Squerryes 2014 Brut.”

Thank you, Richard, for sharing your words, knowledge and experience with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Richard Dyson. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.