At Gusbourne, we’ve always tested the limits of what’s possible in English winemaking. We experiment, refine and push forward the way we do things. Fifty One Degrees North, our new vintage offering, is testament to this approach.
“Our founder Andrew Weeber was always a step ahead; always looking to the future,” says Chief Winemaker Charlie Holland. Back in 2007, Andrew decided to hold back a tranche of that year’s Blanc de Blancs vintage. He wanted to observe how a longer than usual maturation might turn out.
“On release in 2014, those seven-year-old wines held fascinating layers of complexity,” says Charlie. “Yet the wines hadn’t been created with longevity in mind. It got me thinking. How would we design a premium, best-of-best, late-release wine from scratch?” And so work began for Fifty One Degrees North.
Conditions had to be ideal. The 2014 vintage got off to a promising start: a long, warm spring meant perfect flowering; the fruit that followed was healthy and consistently good in both Kent and West Sussex. The harvest was textbook. It was everything Charlie needed to create a prestige, late-release wine.
The best fruit from the best parcels of the best vineyards. The purest pressings. The most characterful barrels. That was our start point.
Since 2015, Charlie and his team have tasted Fifty One Degrees North at least twice a year every year. They’ve carefully monitored the wine, gently assessing its profile as it has evolved in bottle.
Provenance and purpose
Of course, the idea of provenance – sense of place – is at the heart of Fifty One Degrees North. The wine has a unique story to tell about our land and a moment in time. So much so, we used its precise location as the basis for its name. Our vineyards in West Sussex and Kent lie at 51° North.
For long years, textbooks held that 49° was the most northerly point where sparkling wine could be made. But climate change has altered this narrative. Today, Gusbourne’s microclimate and geology are an increasingly benevolent combination. “The world’s best sparkling wines are made in marginal climates,” says Charlie.
The wine’s blend is two-thirds Chardonnay, one-third Pinot Noir. Charlie chose to tip the balance of the Chardonnay from our vineyards in Kent. Here, the clay and sandstone soils lend the fruit characteristic silkiness, roundness and weight. The Pinot Noir was sourced from both of our sites, with the fruit grown in the chalk and flint soil of our West Sussex vineyards imparting elegance, poise, freshness and structure.
Fifty One Degrees North spent 80 months on lees and was bottled in April 2015. And now, at last, its complex flavours are ready to enjoy. “It’s a wine that truly sings,” says Charlie.