One of the most enchanting things about wine is that every vintage is unique. Every year expresses the fascinating symbiotic relationship between nature and winemaker. At Gusbourne, every wine we release is a vintage from a single year, the product of the unpredictability of nature and the challenges that winemakers work with to create the bottles that others enjoy.
Long In The Making
Making wine reflects the eternal tension between hope and the realities of weather. In the open vineyard, a panoply of pruning methods comes to hand. After harvest, when the story moves into the winery, Gusbourne's Head Winemaker Charlie Holland and his team assess the specifics of the fruit produced that year and start to make the technical decisions that ultimately determine how it will be shown at its peak.
Cellar ageing is the final part of the process, when the finished wine stored in bottle evolves its flavours, developing nuance, until the ideal moment for release is reached. How long we age our wines varies. Long cellar ageing isn't appropriate for every wine, nor for every vintage. Some wines are made to be drunk young. Vintages from cooler years tend to age better.
Does Age Matter?
As well as our award-winning sparkling wines, at Gusbourne we finesse expressions of single-grape varietals as still wines – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We do so only when the natural levels of acidity, tannins and fruit promise a wine of outstanding stature. Charlie Holland and his team analyse samples of the same grape type from different vineyards across Gusbourne Estate. Our vineyards in Kent and West Sussex have unique soils, and that's another variable in the matrix along with the specific clonal variety and how the weather has helped or hindered us this year, as we assess whether cellar ageing is appropriate or not.
One fallacy is that older wines are always better wines. A case in point is our still Rosé, which is rarely cellar-aged in bottle because the aim is to offer a fresh and fruit-forward wine in the glass. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, Gusbourne still Rosés are left on stems and skins for only 4-8 hours to gain their colour – but not aged long on cork, so we maximise the impact of the primary fruit flavours.
Two To Know
Two cellar-aged still wines currently on release are our Pinot Noir 2018 and our Chardonnay Guinevere 2017. Both originate from grapes grown on south-facing ancient escarpments in our Boot Hill Vineyard in Appledore, Kent. The microclimate here is warm and dry, despite being close to the Channel coast and Romney Marsh, and both 2017 and 2018 saw a particularly sunny three months up to harvest. The grapes were hand-picked, as with all our wines.
The Pinot Noir vines in 2018 flowered early in June and were thinned in August to intensify their favour. The grapes were fermented on their skins for 14 days in steel tanks and aged in French oak for nine months before being bottled in early August the following year. The result is real depth of red and black fruit concentration, with smoky notes and hints of herbal minerality.
Our Chardonnay Guinevere 2017 was aged in oak barriques for ten months to add weight and complexity, and it brims golden in the glass while candied citrus notes balance the buttery body with lively acidity.
Gusbourne's still wines are released only when deemed ready by our skilled winemaking team. Cellar ageing adds more depth to their appearance and flavour profile and adds layers to the story of their making.
Our Pinot Noir 2018 and Chardonnay Guinevere 2017 are available to purchase online. Older vintages are also available to members of Gusbourne Reserved, our membership club. Sign up to our mailing list to get first notice of other special releases, such as our still Rosé, which is usually sold out by summer's end.
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New Release: Blanc de Blancs 2016
Quietly acknowledged as a strong vintage year for English Sparkling Wine, 2016 will be remembered for its warm, sun-filled summer and autumn days. Ideal conditions for producing fruit of outstanding quality at Gusbourne’s vineyards in Kent and West Sussex.
Why We Blind Taste Our Base Wines
A lot happens to a Gusbourne wine in its journey from harvest to bottle. One important stage is putting our base wines to the test. Each year our winemaking team blind tastes and meticulously analyses every wine before deciding the carefully crafted blends that each of our labels will carry. It’s a fascinating process that takes skill, experience and the ability to imagine a wine’s potential in every vintage year.
Bottling the Bubbles
Some elements of winemaking are widely recognisable. Everyone knows what pruning and harvest look like, photos abound. But once the grapes have been pressed in the winery and the young wine stored to mature, what happens next? When is it transferred to bottle? How do we know the optimum moment for release? Here we reveal the less public part of the winemaker's art.