I am pretty much a novice when it comes to wine, I know what I like tastewise but I don’t know much (yet!) about how different wines are made and the process from starting a vineyard to producing an award-winning wine.
I recently went to a Gusbourne wine tasting evening at The Secret Cellar in Tunbridge Wells in Kent and met their Wine Expert, Rebecca Nightingale, who explained about the history of the Gusbourne Estate and why it is so special and then talked us through tasting five of their wines. I tried some wonderful sparkling wines, a couple of Chardonnays and a rare Pinot Noir.
The Geography, Geology and History of Gusbourne
Gusbourne Wines come from the estate based near Appledore in Kent. The vineyard was setup in 2004 by Andrew Weeber who had a goal to produce “sparkling wines to rival the best in the world”. The vineyard benefits from a microclimate which means it gets the perfect growing conditions with extra heat, sunshine and coastal breezes. You can actually see the sea from the vineyard and it’s only around 40 feet above sea level.
The Gusbourne name comes from “de Goosbourne”. The original estate dates back to 1401 and the family crest was made up of 3 geese.
The 60 hectare Kent vineyard is spread amongst different smaller fields, all individually named, which may have several different grapes growing in each area. They mainly grow three grapes on the vineyard: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. There is also a second 30 hectare vineyard in West Sussex.
It takes a while from first planting the vines to harvesting a viable crop. The vines were planted in 2004, harvested in 2006 and the first vintage was bottled in 2010. A vintage means grapes that are grown and harvested in one specific year. Gusbourne only make vintage wine.
Gusbourne Wines have won multiple international awards. The Gusbourne winemaker Charlie Holland is a three time winner of the International Wines and Spirits Competition (IWSC) English Wine Producer of the Year Award.
The Gusbourne Wine Tastings…
We started with the 2013 Brut Reserve, a bright gold sparking wine which tastes of strawberries. It is a carefully selected blend of 55% Pinot Noir, 27% Pinot Meunier (and I had no idea that red grapes were used in white sparking wines) and 18% Chardonnay. Aged in steel tanks with some in barrels and then carefully blended to create the perfect vintage.
A lovely, soft and fresh taste which is very easy on the palate. We had cheese, biscuits and cold meats with it which worked well. This was aged for 3 years before bottling and is perfect to drink right now.
The next one was a Blanc de Blancs from 2013. Completely different in colour from the previous wine, a much paler gold and a much fruitier taste. This one is made from 100% Chardonnay hence the name “white of white”. Grown in the Boot Hill and Commanders fields of the Kent vineyard. This one is harvested slightly later and the grapes are more concentrated.
The 2014 Rosé was next. A Brut (meaning “dry”) and sparkling wine. 2014 was a warmer year so it was harvested slightly earlier at optimum ripeness. A small quantity of red wines is added before the secondary fermentation which gives a beautiful pale pink colour. This definitely tasted of strawberries and would work very well with desserts.
Moving on from sparkling wines we tried two different vintages of the same Chardonnay named “Guinevere” (meaning “the white one”). 2013 and 2014 looked and tasted completely different. The 2013 was a much brighter colour and a stronger taste. The 2014 was more gentle on the palate. I wasn’t so keen on these two.
Our last wine was a treat, a rare Pinot Noir from 2016. Only a small quantity of this wine was made and there was no harvest in 2016 so no vintage in 2017. This was delicious and highly recommended if you can find it. The Secret Cellar had a few bottles left…
I highly recommend trying Gusbourne wines, they are available via The Secret Cellar, Fortnum and Mason or directly from Gusbourne.