A Recap of the 2016 Harvest at England’s Gusbourne Estate

“We’re having a wonderful harvest of both quality and quantity,” said Andrew Weeber Chairman and founder of Gusbourne during their  2016 harvest.

Gusbourne's freshly picked Chardonnay grapes
     Gusbourne’s freshly picked Chardonnay grapes
This year’s vintage in England started off with variable damp, cool weather, unfortunately similar to many other wine regions around Europe in 2016.  But, unlike other areas in England that were affected by frost in May, Gusbourne’s vineyards were mostly sheltered, benefiting from being fortuitously located in the Southeast, where the most warm weather in England was seen this vintage.

It’s no doubt that the several weeks of 20 to 30 degree Celsius days leading up to harvest turned the ship known as the 2016 vintage around.  As a result, Gusbourne finished earlier than anticipated on October 7th in its’ Kent vineyards.   In many other places in England, harvest continued nearly to the end of October.

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                             Gusbourne’s Kent Vineyard

Gusbourne’s secret weapon could be its Kent vineyard, which make up two-thirds of the estate’s vineyard holdings.

Soil in Gusbourne's Kent Vineyard
                         Soil in Gusbourne’s Kent Vineyard

“We have a lot of clay and a lot of sand within these sites and what we find is that we’re often the most earliest ripening site in the country,” according to Charlie Holland, Gusbourne’s head winemaker.

The Kent vineyards also have some other important attributes, namely a cool breeze that keeps disease away and it offers, “a nice protected micro-climate, southeast corner, kept away from all the bad weather coming in from the Atlantic,” according to Charlie Holland.

Head Winemaker Charlie Holland
                  Gusbourne Head Winemaker Charlie Holland

So far, most of the grapes harvested will naturally reach the desired 10.5% of alcohol without chapitalization or the addition of sugar at the time of fermentation.  In addition, the acidity and PH are all in line with the best sparkling wines.

“The 2016 vintage has been perfect in terms of the acid/sugar profile, we are able to have warm enough days to get the sugars up to where we need to be for secondary fermentation, but also we have cold, cold nights so we retain all that acidity,”  said Head Winemaker Charlie Holland.

The estate was taken over in 2004 by Andrew Weeber and grape vines were planted for the first time.  By 2010, the first Gusbourne wines were released onto the market with the vision that Gusbourne sparkling wines compete head to head with the best sparkling wines offered around the world.

“We’re not Champagne. We have to be better than Champagne,” says owner Andrew Weeber.   As if to prove the point, the estate has since won numerous wine awards solidifying Gusbourne’s position on the international sparkling wine scene.

The estate focuses on traditional sparkling wine production, growing only the classic varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier .  The production is divided between Champagne and Burgundy clones. Speaking of his use of Burgundy clones, Head Winemaker Charlie Holland adds, “what that means is you get a lower yield with more intensity of flavor.”

It was exciting to see the beautiful grapes and to taste some of the just fermenting juice.  It is clear 2016 will be a vintage that will be very pleasing to consumers, even if they will have to wait minimally four years for the chance to try them.

Currently, Gusbourne offers three sparkling wine offerings; a Blanc de Blanc, a Rose and a Brut Reserve and in very limited quantity depending on the year, a still Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

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