Meet Kentish Champagne challengers, Gusbourne
Nestled in the rolling hills between Appledore and Rye lies Gusbourne, a beautiful English winery that’s taking on the global big hitters with its range of still and sparkling wines.
Back in 2004, when the first vines were planted on the estate, the English wine industry was still finding its feet. Sales were on the up, perception was shifting and the climate was becoming increasingly suited to growing grapes … yet it was by no means a safe investment. Andrew Weeber was the man who had the vision, not just for growing grapes, but for building an estate that would rival the finest wine producers in the world.
Here at The Kings Head, we’ve been championing English wine producers since we started in 2013. From the beginning, we decided that fizz by the glass should be local, not Prosecco. Back then, Gusbourne was only a few years into production but already receiving critical acclaim so we jumped at the chance to supply their wines.
Fast forward six years and our relationship with Gusbourne has grown with their success. Which is why, on a beautiful Spring morning, we took our cameras up to the estate to film an interview with CEO and head winemaker, Charlie Holland, talking about their incredible journey.
Standing on the ridge, overlooking the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vineyards, it was easy to see what makes this spot special. Just six miles inland from the coast, the estate is cooled by sea breezes, yet situated in one of the country’s driest, warmest microclimates. So much so that Gusbourne’s vines are the first to flower, their fruit is the first to ripen and Charlie’s decision to harvest beats their competitors by a few weeks.
Gusbourne own all their vines, the majority on the Appledore estate that dates back to 1410, but with a small pocket in nearby West Sussex. This is unusual for English estates and gives the team full control over the entire process. Walking through the vineyards as they were bursting into leaf, with the sounds of the last vintage rattling through the bottling line behind us, was the ultimate in end to end production.
Although Gusbourne’s reach is rightfully global, they remain passionate about supporting local and value those, like us, who have supported them on their journey. As Kentish wine tourism grows (we’ve booked many taxis for our guests to and from Gusbourne!), Charlie is proud to see his wine partnered with local seafood, meats and cheeses. On our menu, you’ll find award-winning Gusbourne Brut Reserve, a classic Champagne blend of varieties that is produced each vintage. With its beautiful bright gold colour, summer fruit aromas and long, refreshing finish, we all agreed that one of its perfect food partners is fish and chips. If you’ve yet to try that combination, you’re in for a treat when you next visit!
It was a wrench to leave such a beautiful spot and this summer, there’s no doubt we’ll be back to visit. What Gusbourne are doing is testament to their vision and determination. There’s no quick win in the wine game and, 15 years after those first vines were planted (precious Burgundian rootstock that was brought over precisely because of the similarity in terroir), it is an absolute pleasure to toast their success