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A Tour of the Gusbourne Estate

Award-winning sparkling English wines

One may be forgiven for not immediately thinking of Southeast England when it comes to award-winning sparkling wines. My recent tour of the Gusbourne Estate proved otherwise. Nestled in what can only be described as “the garden of England”, this vineyard delivers a formidable selection of wines to suit every palate. Its history dates back to medieval 1410 and the estate derives its name from the original landowner, John de Goosebourne, using the original Goosebourne family crest as its logo.

My day was spent touring the 150 acres in Appledore, Kent, on foot, led by the exceptional Patricia, a “super host” and one part of the small but incredibly knowledgeable team at “The Nest”, Gusbourne’s headquarters and where most of the action happens. Picture this, the sun is shining (I know it’s hard to believe this summer in England), the bees are buzzing, and you have a glass of perfectly chilled English sparking wine in hand – the view of the sea faintly in the distance (Appledore was once a port), looking over a vineyard. That is Gusbourne.

Founder of the estate, Andrew Weeber, developed a low intervention, sustainable approach to wine making from day one. Only the best quality fruit is harvested, all hand-picked by the skilled vineyard team using traditional methods. The grapes are pressed in whole bunches, and the unique terroirs and mild microclimates of the area add their own depth and complexity to the produce. Appledore is the second warmest place in the country; the sea and sea breeze, sunshine and south facing aspect, create the perfect environment.

Roses at the end of vines, Gusbourne Estate, England.

Historically, roses are planted at the end of vine rows to warn about aphids, to colour code the vines (white roses for chardonnay), and to stop ploughing horses from hitting the vines.

Gusbourne has won several acolades and is the only three-time winner of the IWSC English Wine Producer of the Year. The characteristic style of the wines comes from fruit grown across this estate and another in West Sussex. In Kent, the soil is predominantly clay, giving a richer, more rounded fruit. In Sussex, the vines grow on chalk which provides an elegant, expressive grape. Three classic varieties are used: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Most of the clones are Burgundian, chosen because they yield smaller volumes of intensely flavourful fruit. Exacting standards guide Gusbourne’s winemaking team from pressing the grapes in whole bunches through to blind tasting, blending, and extended ageing on lees and cork.

After a meet and greet in the magnificent patio-type area overlooking the vineyard with a welcome drink from the Nest Selection Magnum (2018), we headed off on a leisurely tour of the vineyards. Those joining my tour were both international and more local, London-based wine lovers – many already well-versed in the estate’s selection of wines. Walking to Boot Hill, the highest spot in the vineyard, we enjoyed a glass of the delicious Rose 2019, pale pink in colour, with a nose that showcases lots of red and stone fruit notes, citrus zest, and fresh flowers. Here, Patricia tells us about things such as local points of interest and history of the area, the natural forms of pest control and composting – the grape skins after pressing and the vines after pruning are given back to the land – and the care of the vines that’s involved across the seasons; “All this is done to sustain our land as much as possible”, says Patricia.

From the left: Blanc de Noirs 2019 (£65), Blanc de Blancs 2019 (£65), and Brut Reserve Late Disgorged 2015 (£105).

I also learnt why the different coloured rose bushes were planted at the end of each vine. They are potential alerts about an influx of aphids, colour code the vines (white roses for the chardonnay), and historically when horse and plough were used, the rose bushes were planted to stop the horses hitting the vines.

Following our tour which circumnavigated the estate, we headed back to the downstairs private dining room at the Nest for a seasonal three course lunch paired with more estate wines and commentary about each of them. We enjoyed the Blanc de Noirs (2019), generous and rounded on the palette with red cherry, ripe strawberry and red apple, alongside a darker, slatey mineral character, Blanc de Blancs (2019), which displayed bright citrus notes of ripe lemon and orange peel, along with green apple and Williams pear; and the Brut Reserve Late Disgorged (2015), rich in aromas of citrus peel, green apple and stone fruits alongside brioche and biscuit notes.


Tasting tour at Gusbourne Estate

Gusbourne Estate offers a variety of tours, tastings and picnics for a very special day out in the gorgeous English countryside.

We finished off the day back outside on the patio with a tasting of the very special Fifty One Degrees North 2016 (£195), my favourite. Featuring distinct mineral and maritime notes, this singular vintage wine blends two-thirds Chardonnay and one-third Pinot Noir using fruit grown from both Gusbourne’s Kent and West Sussex vineyards.

There’s a series of different tours and tastings available to suit everyone and picnics (which look amazing by the way) can also be arranged. The sleek cellar tasting rooms are inviting and unpretentious and upstairs you can make your purchases to take home – a Gusbourne reusable calico shopper is also available. Book your visit HERE.

Words: Linda Hunting

Linda experienced the Gusbourne Estate Tour which includes a tour of the estate, an extended guided tasting of Gusbourne wines and a seasonal three-course lunch, paired with Gusbourne wines.

All images courtesy of Gusbourne.

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