WWC23 – Zoë Evans, by Melissa Evans

Zoë Evans and her dog Hux tending to the vines at Rowton Vineyard

In this submission to our 2023 wine writing competition, English vintner Melissa Evans writes about her twin sister and co-vintner Zoë. See this guide to our competition.

Melissa Evans writes Melissa is passionate about wine, and about being a twin! She is currently juggling full-time work in marketing with her passion project, running Rowton Vineyard with her twin sister, Zoë. They have a 5-acre vineyard in sunny Shropshire where they grow Solaris, Seyval Blanc and Pinot Noir Précoce. 

The Magic of Twin Connection: My Favourite Wine Person

As I sit here with a glass of wine in hand, I can only hope that what I’m about to write does justice to my favourite wine person. Somehow, I get the feeling that no words will ever be enough, but here it goes! I’d like to tell you about my twin sister, Zoë. 

She may have entered this world first, but I wasn’t going to let her stay there long without having me right by her side! From the moment we were born, I was given a best friend to walk through life with. From sharing a birthday to sharing a room, a car, friends, holidays, dreams. Zoë has been—and always will be—my other half. My second self. My partner in crime (and in business!). And the one who I am lucky to call my twin sister. 

As children, we were often asked what it was like being a twin. I always thought it was an impossible question to answer - how could you ‘get it’ if you haven't lived it? It’s a bond you can’t describe. We have known nothing else, and the truth is, I don’t want to know anything else. 

The aim of this piece isn’t to paint a perfect picture of Zoë - she’s human, and we all have our ‘flaws’. She can be stubborn and blunt. She can be hilariously sarcastic and unforgivingly real. And she can be fiercely independent. But these are all flaws qualities that I have come to love, understand and appreciate over the years. 

To me, Zoë is an inspirational person. I have always looked up to her (both metaphorically and literally!), and I find myself striving to make her proud. Her stubborn directness manifests in her ability to be confident in her decision-making and stand strong in adversity. Her sarcastic nature and realness is warming and refreshingly honest; you always know where you stand with her. And her fierce independence drives her to search for success in all that she does. 

Zoë’s dedication to her craft is unwavering. She is the motive behind our vineyard, and her passion for making delicious wines is infectious. She has always had a love and a knack for all things outdoors and agricultural, even when we were young. I’m cautious to say it has come somewhat naturally to her, as I don’t want to suggest it’s been a walk in the park. Zoë has worked hard and pushed her own boundaries to establish herself and her career, and to be where she is today - championing English wine. 

She studied at Harper Adams University achieving a 2:1 in Agri-Food and Marketing and completed her placement year with Majestic Wines, opening her eyes to the world of wine which in turn, inspired her next move. Zoë jetted off to live over 11,426 miles away from me in the sunshine wine region of Marlborough, New Zealand in October 2015. It was here, whilst working for Marisco Vineyards, a family-owned and operated, award-winning Marlborough wine producer and home to iconic wine brand The Ned, that her love for wine and all it encompasses, really blossomed. She got to work closely with General Manager Viticulture, Anton Rasmussen, who used to insist he was ‘just a gardener’, but in fact is an incredibly knowledgeable and humble viticulturists who shared his passion and love for growing vines with Zoë.

After returning to the UK, and landing back in Shropshire in November 2016, the wine bug still had a firm grip and although it was a younger and smaller industry here, that wasn’t going to stop her. Between us, and our blue sky thinking, we decided we had the perfect site for a promising vineyard! Rowton Vineyard took many years in the planning, during which time we put together our business plan, and pledged to learn as much as we possibly could between us. Zoë has spent 3 enjoyable years working at Halfpenny Green and learning from their talented team, helping to manage their 30-acre vineyard and assisting in the winery each year. The winery was built in 2005 and produces between 50-60,000 bottles of wine under the Halfpenny Green label each year, whilst also carrying out contract wine making and bottling for many other UK vineyards. Whilst here, the opportunity to taste and work with many different varieties grown in the UK only fuelled the desire for us to set up our own vineyard even more. Never one to turn down a rare opportunity, Zoë has also completed a harvest with Hattingley Vineyard in Hampshire under the brilliant guidance of Emma Rice, a true pioneer in the English wine world. She has also completed various roles with our neighbouring Shropshire vineyards, Hencote and Kerry Vale; working as a cellar hand, assistant winemaker, vineyard manager and on-going contractor.

Zoë’s unwavering enthusiasm is at its utmost when out in the vineyard with her beloved sidekick Hux, an irresistibly soppy and handsome golden Labrador, named after the grape variety Huxelrebe. Through all seasons, come rain or shine, you’ll find her doing what needs to be done - it’s never a chore and it’s never too much, she finds enjoyment in just about everything! Zoë also takes immense pride in ensuring she is always on top of her game, studying hard through tastings, workshops and seminars to stay up to date with the latest trends and techniques. Her constant eagerness to do more, learn more, be more and offer more, shines through in her desire to knowledge-share and host tastings and tours as often as possible. It is my fortune that I can share her learnings and her passion with her, evolving our sisterhood to mature into work and life together. 

I feel extremely lucky to be able to call Zoë my twin sister. It seems our relationship never stops growing. Much like the tendrils of a vine, our lives have intertwined since the start, and we share a unique bond that keeps us connected and close. Just as a vine wraps itself around sturdy trellising for support, we provide strength and encouragement to each other. And just as a vine has a remarkable ability to adapt to different environments and conditions, our relationship has evolved over time, adjusting to the changing circumstances and seasons of life. Our time together as adults, and as business partners, is filled with more laughter, love and mutual respect than ever before. I’ll always be her biggest supporter and blue-sky thinker. We’re an army of two, and as long as we have each other, we can take on the impossible. 

So here’s to the future, and here’s to you, Zoë - my twin sister, my best friend, my second self. My favourite wine person. 

The photo is the author's own.