English sparkling wine has been making some waves of late. Not too long ago the wines were arguably more functional than thrilling, but rather than working against nature there are estates harnessing the cool climate to create top quality sparkling wines. Finesse and delicacy are key to creating quality sparkling wines. Big flavours and lots of fruit/sugar/alcohol go against the grain where fizz is concerned. Whereas elsewhere in the world they resort to picking early and seeking out cool sites, the warmer parts of the south of England are rather conducive to growing grapes that are ideal for this purpose.
Gusbourne first came to our attention at an awards dinner at the end of last year when they picked up the IWSC trophy for English Wine Producer of the Year. That of course prompted a conversation, which lead to a tasting, which lead to a lot of smiling faces, which lead to a new range of sparkling wines landing on our shelves. Gusbourne is a family-owned estate in Kent, the garden of England.
They are absolutely committed to quality production which is evident in their beautifully tended vines, and top notch winemaking. The wines are made from the same grapes that are used in Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and the wines are made by the same process that the Champagne houses use. This traditional method involves a secondary fermentation in the bottle which creates the bubbles and Gusbourne keep the wine on the lees for 36 months or more (9 months is standard in many parts of the world) which imparts more autolytic flavours from the decaying yeasts (sounds grim but is actually very desirable) and gives the wine more complexity and depth.
A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. “Richly autolytic nose, sweet dough, baked apple – very traditional, and convincing. Really fine balance and lengthy finish. A classic. 17 pts.” (Richard Hemming writing for Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages, 6 May 2014).
100% Chardonnay creating a delicate, green apple and citrus flavour profile with notes of toast, hazelnuts and baked apple. The star of the line up as far as the JN taste team were concerned.
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. “Pale orange-pink. Complex, developed nose with nice autolytic character. Ripe and biscuity – crowd-pleasing but not confected. Creamy, and with good length too. 17 points.” (Richard Hemming for Jancis Robinson Purple Pages 6 May 2014).
A still red made from their estate grown grapes and possibly the best English red wine that Jancis Robinson has ever tasted!