The individuality of a wine originates, quite naturally, from the individuality of the vineyard its grapes come from. Gusbourne owns 16 vineyards across 90ha in Kent and West Sussex. We use only our own grapes in making each of our wines. Here’s the story of six vineyards that you can visit on a tour.
This is where it all began. Our first vineyard, planted in 2004, is named after Butness Woods, which sit to the east of the vines. All three traditional sparkling wine varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier – are planted here and sheltered by woodland all around. South-facing and highly productive, this plot always has a special place in the heart of Chief Vineyard Manager Jon Pollard, who stood with owner Andrew Weeber surveying the territory on that first day of planting in May 2004.
This is the vineyard next to our tasting room and cellar door, The Nest. It extends to the northernmost tip of our estate in Kent, and at 40m above sea level it's also the highest point, with far-reaching views. This means the grapes – again all three traditional varieties – gain from exposure to wind and sun, which in turn requires different pruning techniques to some other plots to help control the levels of ventilation the vines receive. Planted in 2006 and 2007, this vineyard’s name matches its shape. Boot Hill provides the fruit for our still Chardonnay Guinevere and Pinot Noir wines.
Also sited near The Nest and an early part of our tours, this vineyard is named after the house that stands a little way to the east, which was built and owned by a naval commander. The old well that served the house with water is still preserved in the vineyard, though now safely capped off. The south-facing aspect surrounded by woodland and mature hedges makes Commanders a sheltered vineyard with protected fruit. Here we grow only Chardonnay.
So named by owner Andrew Weeber because the rows of vines are so long that when you start pruning your heart might break in two at the prospect of the time-consuming task ahead of you! The plot is, appropriately, also split in two, with the vines at the top sitting on Wealden Clay and more exposed to wind. This ventilation helps avoid fungal growth, keeping the vines robust and healthy. Moving down from 25m to 5m, the soil becomes more friable with Tunbridge Wells sand and a little more shelter adding to the profile of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit.
This is really three vineyards in one, together making up the greatest acreage and running down to the southern border of the Gusbourne estate by the Royal Military Canal. A mound at the northern edge is believed to be an ancient burial site. Lower Mill Hill is our lowest-lying vineyard (2-6m) and well protected by mature trees and hedge. This means that it retains colder morning air and the metabolic activities of the vine take longer to get going. So fruit arrives later in the ripening period here than in our other plots. Mill Hill gave us the grapes for our still Pinot Noir Rosé 2020.
As the name suggests, this field is sited at the bottom of the estate and where a military camp once stood. Like Lower Mill Hill next door, the cold air accumulation here slows ripening, so picking happens later in the season. On a warm day, these vineyards have the highest temperature of all on the estate. Both were planted in 2015. Bottom Camp provides us with high-quality Chardonnay, including the muscat clone used in our still Chardonnay 809, on a soil profile that's uniform and friable.
Across from Kent, our 30ha in West Sussex produce significant quantities of fruit, with Halnaker making a major contribution to our 2016 sparkling wines. It's a mixed parcel, with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier planted on flinty clay loam over chalk, with chalk close to the surface at the top of the east-facing slope. Named after the nearby village, Halnaker isn't part of our vineyard tours just yet.
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