When it comes to pairing food with English wine, there’s not a lot that James Osborn doesn’t know. As manager of Squerryes in Westerham, he’s an expert in his field, who joined us for a Wine Dinner event at The Small Holding earlier this year, hosting an intimate five-course meal for our guests.

Some of our Kent restaurant’s finest dishes were coupled with a selection of the North Downs estate’s favourite sparkling wines. As James guided diners through the process of how best to enjoy and appreciate a variety of flavour combinations, we treated them to a delectable dinner with a difference.

“Every course bar one was paired with a vintage Squerryes sparkling, defined by Will Devlin and sommelier Sally Murphy,” he says. “Bringing those two people together was important to find the right wine for the food, and make sure that each one complemented the other.

“It was a great evening and a lovely way of bringing the brand to life, but also giving guests something different to what they’d normally get at a very nice restaurant.”

Here, James talks about making the most of our menus…

Squerryes has been ‘creating joy for nearly 300 years’ in the heart of Kent

On collaborating with The Small Holding…

It was a kinship between likeminded producers that drew James to partner with our Kilndown restaurant. Sharing an interest in local ingredients, Squerryes soon became our sparkling wine of choice.

“We really liked Will’s enthusiasm for foraging and sourcing seasonal, local ingredients, and using that to create the very best dishes,” explains James. “He was taking a lot of inspiration from Kent, which is a passion that we share.”

On pairing food with wine…

At The Small Holding, it was important for James to work closely with our team. Together, we looked at how particular food and wine flavour characteristics and notes could marry perfectly.

“One should never overpower the other,” James reveals. “The two should be like a well-tuned orchestra playing together. There’s no set formula – every food is different to every wine, and you have to approach it with an open mind.”

On the explosion of English wine…

With over 150 vineyards in the South East, Squerryes has enjoyed the fruits of the English wine boom in recent years. For James, it’s certainly an exciting time to be in the trade.

“It’s great to be part of this world of English wine,” he confirms. “A lot of people are very proud of where they live and their regions’ produce, so want to be part of that journey.”

On educating his customers…

Placing high value on events like tastings and pairings, James brings food and wine to life in exciting new ways, creating an experience to cherish and remember.

“These collaborations are important for producers, because there’s so much choice for customers, and so many brands on the shelves,” he concludes. “Food should be a Segway to wine, and people need to understand a little bit more about the story behind the label.”

© WILL AND MATT DEVLIN