It all began in the village of Appledore in Kent in 2004.
Our first vines – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – were planted on 20 hectares of previously arable land (turnip fields, actually) with rich, productive soil. Early success in the form of strong vine growth and exceptional fruiting quickly justified expansion. We now have 12 individual vineyards planted in Appledore, spread over a 60 hectare estate.
Planting vines from scratch means each vineyard can be named to reflect its characteristics. Boot Hill is so-shaped, Commanders overlooks a naval officer’s house, Heartbreak with its long rows of vines expresses the uphill task facing our pickers each harvest time.
Down to earth
More critically, each vineyard varies according to its physical factors, beginning with orientation, topography, soil type and wind and sun exposure. Boot Hill rises to 40m, while parts of Lower Mill Hill are only 2m above sea level. Different vineyards (and sometimes different parts of the same vineyard) are better suited to developing Chardonnay than Pinot Noir and Meunier (and vice versa). As Global Ambassador Laura Rhys MS explains: “Planting single vineyards with a variety of grape types and clones lets us create a patchwork quilt of small blocks that we can treat differently throughout the year and pick separately at harvest. Each block brings its own identity and profile to our wines.”
This is where the knowledge and experience of our vineyard and winemaking teams comes into its own, allowing them to control, combine and optimise the quality of each element of production, as the ground and weather conditions vary vintage to vintage. Their ability to understand and work with the different natural characteristics across the whole estate is central to Gusbourne’s success. It’s also why we decided, in 2013, to purchase additional vineyard stock near the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex, where we grow our own grapes in five separate plantings across 30 hectares.
The geology and soil profiles in Sussex differ from those in Kent, giving our production teams an even wider palette of possibilities. Our Kent vines sit on Wealden Clay and Tunbridge Wells Sand, which are nutrient-rich and water- and heat-retentive. This increases the ripeness of the fruit, building more muscular wines with roundness, fullness and body. Our Sussex vineyards sit on chalk and clay loam and chunks of flint. This softer, porous, alkaline soil gives wines brighter acidity, building elegance and poise.
Much of Gusbourne’s range of sparkling wines blends fruit from both our Kent and Sussex vineyards. We also produce single-vineyard wines, still as well as sparkling. As Laura says, “It’s about showcasing the most interesting parcels of a particular vintage. And it’s our attention to detail during our base-wine grading and blending process that lets us identify particularly intriguing, special wines to highlight unique areas of our vineyards and the vines within them.”
As illustration are four sparkling wines from the 2017 vintage. Our Blanc de Blancs 2017 from Commanders vineyard in Kent (10-20m above sea level) and also our Blanc de Blancs 2017 from Selhurst vineyard in West Sussex (at 100m above sea level our highest spot of all) will make for a fascinating comparison. Likewise our 2017 Blanc de Noirs from Boot Hill in Kent and our flint-driven Blanc de Noirs from Down Field in Sussex.
These four new releases can now be purchased here. Explore our complete range of award-winning still and sparkling wines, expertly crafted exclusively from grapes grown in our own vineyards in Kent and West Sussex. To learn more, watch our film below.
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