When Gusbourne’s cellar door host Susan East first moved to Kent from Sheffield 20 years ago, she hit all the compass points on the tourist trail from Rye to Sissinghurst to Chartwell. Now, while she’s taking visitors round the vineyards and winery at Gusbourne, she passes on some of that hard-earned Garden of England knowledge. Here Sue gives a flavour of what guests can expect on one of our Nest team’s guided Vineyard Tours. Prepare your senses for a fresh-air workout.
We’re just 35 minutes on the train from London. And then a short taxi journey to what I’ve heard some people describe as “the middle of nowhere”. When people come here from the bustle of the city, it’s a complete change of environment. A whole new ambiance. Fresh air. No traffic noise. You can only hear the birds – chaffinches, collared doves, gulls. Plus the occasional pop of a cork!
We only do small groups. Maximum twelve people for a more relaxed, more intimate experience. It can be a lovely social day out – a gentle wander among the vines, a few photos and of course a tasting. Or it might be just one or two people who really want to get to know what Gusbourne is all about. We love hosting, and we’re good at “reading the room” to give guests the kind of visit they want. There’s no script!
The weather can be fantastic. We get a lot of sunshine in this part of the country. But if the skies do open, we’ve got extra wellies and we’ve always got a Plan B, which usually involves spending a bit more time in the winery and a bit more time pouring and tasting wine.
When you smell our wines in the glass, that’s the terroir of this place. We’re so near the coast that you can smell the brine on the sea breeze. Some of our vines are planted where the sea used to roll in centuries ago along the Saxon Shore Way. And in summer you can literally stop and smell the roses planted at the ends of the vine rows.
There’s nothing like tasting the Brut Reserve right in the vineyard where it was made. My favourite spot is under the boughs of a spectacular live oak. Idyllic and unforgettable.
You don’t need to be an aficionado to enjoy learning about wine. And you’ll be surprised at how much you absorb after a couple of hours in the vineyard and the winery. You might not remember every detail, but hopefully you’ll come away with a sense of how much care, time and attention goes into every bottle. And after all that ‘work’ we’ll pour you a reward. And we won’t quiz you about malolactic fermentation!
The whole team is so excited about spring and summer and welcoming guests back to Gusbourne. I love it here in the autumn too. From the balcony at The Nest, the view in the late afternoon light is breath-taking. Golden sun on golden leaves against a teal-blue sky… I love watching that change of season. We often get artists coming here to paint, and I see why – the geometry of the vines against the soft landscape makes a lovely canvas.
There’s always something different. Throughout the year, the Nest team keeps up with what’s happening in the vineyard and in the winery, so we always have something special for visitors to see on a particular day. In the vineyard it could be pruning or leaf stripping or grape-picking. In the winery it could be barrel analysis or disgorging. Every tour brings something new.
It's not just a vineyard. It has its setting. It has its purpose. It has its place. But it’s about people as well. When I’m taking guests on a tour, we might stop and talk with someone from the vineyard team tending the vines. Like Jim, whose pruning technique is meticulous. It’s so inspiring to watch someone who loves their job doing it with such precision and care, and he’s always generous with his time. Of course, the same applies to everyone here – in fact it’s why we’re here. We love hosting and sharing and hopefully passing on some of that spirit.
Book a two-hour guided Vineyard Tour with our Nest team from for just £25 per person. If you'd like to enjoy a picnic after your tour, you can book the full experience together here, just select 'Vineyard Tour & Picnic for Two'.
You may also like...
Discover English Sparkling: tips and advice from Laura Rhys, Master Sommelier
One of the many glorious things about wine is that you need know nothing about it to enjoy it. But if you’re inclined to explore a little further, then learning about wine is unbelievably rewarding. The more you discover, the more potential for pleasure there is in every glass.
English fine wine: the year ahead
We sit down with Chief Winemaker and CEO Charlie Holland to talk 2022 vintage, the English fine wine industry and why he’s so excited about Gusbourne’s year ahead.