Kent and Sussex lead the way when it comes to producing superb English wines. A diversity of soils, excellent climate conditions and stunning countryside means the region is perfect wine-producing country. 

A visit to the wine garden of England wouldn’t be complete without dropping by a local wine estate for a vineyard tour, English wine tasting and lunch featuring the best of the area’s home-grown offerings. A visit to Gusbourne Wine Estate ticks all those boxes plus a few more.

The History

Gusbourne sits deep in the Kentish countryside with stunning views across to neighbouring East Sussex. The estate, near the charming village of Appledore, dates back to 1410 when it was owned by the de Goosebournes. The family crest was made up of three geese and you’ll find a nod to Gusbourne’s history in their logo. Etched on the estate’s wine glasses and imprinted on every bottle of wine that leaves its cellars, the contemporary ‘goosemark’ logo is a symbol of quality and trust.

The Vineyards

The vineyards started life when Andrew Weeber had a dream of producing excellent English sparkling wines that would compete with the best wines from across the world. All the grapes in Gusbourne’s wines are grown and harvested uniquely from their own vineyards. There are 60 hectares at Gusbourne Estate in Kent and 30 hectares near Chichester in West Sussex. Their exacting standards are the only way Gusbourne can ensure the quality of the grapes they use.

The Tour

The Discovery tour is a four-hour tour of the vineyard with ample wine-tastings and lunch. As soon as I arrived and took in the views across the vines I knew I was about to have an amazing time. We start in the gazebo outside The Nest, the winery’s restaurant and tasting rooms. The first cork is popped and a glass of Gusbourne’s exquisite 2016 Brut Reserve is poured which we savour for a moment before taking it with us to the Boot Hill area of the vineyard.

The first vines were planted at Gusbourne in 2004. Three classic varieties; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. As we stand between the rows of regimented vines enjoying our Brut Reserve we learn about the types of vines grown, the unique terroir and the microclimate of the vineyard. It’s a very special feeling to be standing on the very spot where the grapes were nurtured and harvested before being expertly transformed into the outstanding wine in your glass.

We stop beneath an ancient oak and Matt, our knowledgeable and engaging guide, pops a bottle of 2016 Rosé. We inhale the aroma of soft summer berries and enjoy full floral flavours of cranberry and ripe cherries. 

Matt explains the history of the land and how the sea once lapped where we are now stood, adding a distinct salinity and minerality of the soil. The Saxon Shore Way passes through Gusbourne estate. The long distance footpath follows the coastline of the South East as it was about 1500 years ago from Gravesend in Kent to Hastings in East Sussex.

We head back to the winery, passing areas of wildflower planting and gnarled oak trees. We see just a tiny part of the vineyard which is huge. It’s incredible to think that every one of the grapes at Gusbourne is hand hand-picked and the vines are all hand-tended and pruned. A labour of love.

The Winery

Matt opens the doors of the winery and although we’re not allowed inside we can see where the magic happens. After picking, the grapes are gently pressed in whole bunches and fermented in stainless steel stills or oak barrels. We learn about the quantities of yeast added and the length of time the lees are aged and how they’re cleverly removed before the wine is sealed and labelled. Timing is just as important as the terroir, the grapes and the climate.

It’s time for lunch and we head to the gazebo next to The Nest for lunch. The Nest is currently closed due to Covid-19 so the group is properly distanced under the outside awning. I manage to take a peek inside the contemporary tasting room before I leave.

The Wines

We have a tutored tasting of five more wines including some special wines that don’t feature in the standard tour. Two sparkling wines; the 2013 Blanc de Blancs and 2016 Blanc de Noirs, followed by three still wines which are paired with lunch. The all-too-quaffable 2018 Chardonnay Guinevere is a combination of the owner’s wife and daughter’s names. We sample a delightful 2019 Cherry Garden Rose and a softly rich 2018 Pinot Noir. All the wines throughout the day are superb and the tastings generous. 

Each Gusbourne wine is exclusively vintage and unique which means the wines vary and each reflect the conditions of their particular growing season. It was fascinating to hear from Matt how the weather plays a part in the character and expression of the wines which are crafted to perfection.

The Food

Lunch was as exceptional as the wines. The Discovery tour lunch is made up of seasonal sharing platters prepared by local company Vine and Country Tours. The food is the perfect pairing for Gusbourne and designed to complement their wines. 

Vine and Country have recently won gold in the Visit England 2020 awards for excellence and it’s easy to see why. Their ethos is to source and forage ingredients locally, from under the same sky and from the same soils, which mean they pair well naturally and organically. The food is plentiful, inspirational and bursting with local flavour. 

Beetroot was elevated to a whole new level in the beetroot tartare with nettle oil and blackberries. The duck egg was cooked to perfection with a beautifully fluid yolk and served with confit garlic sauce, roasted red pepper and anchovy. The tasty Hastings smoked mackerel is one I’ll be looking out for next time I visit the town and the elderflower poached peach and feta salad was a fabulous combo with feta from High Weald Dairy. Confit vegetable Tarte Tatin showcased homegrown tomatoes and courgette and when I didn’t think I could eat any more a peach dessert topped with honey-laced cream arrived… the perfect end to a perfect day.

Visiting Gusbourne 

The Gusbourne Discovery tour reviewed above runs from 11am to 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays and costs £70 per person. Booking is required.

The hosted vineyard tour runs for two hours from Wednesday to Sunday and includes a guided walk in the vines, a tour of the winery and a tutored wine tasting. £25 per person. Booking required.

Self-guided tours are available all day, every day, with no booking required. Pick up a map from the Nest and explore under your own steam before returning to the winery for a glass of wine.

Thank you to Suzanne Jones from The Travelbunny for this guest blog post.

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Gusbourne Estate
Vineyard
Lunch at Gusbourne Estate, Appledore, Kent.

Visit us in Appledore, Kent to explore our vineyards and find out what makes our corner of England so special for winemaking. Our tasting room is open to visitors all year round, and our cellar door stocks a range of limited-edition wines that are available to taste and buy exclusively at the Nest.

Vine and Country Tours
Vineyard
Vine and Country Tours

Vine + Country Tours is a multi award winning bespoke English Wine Tour and Food experience provider with over 30 private vineyard and brewery partners across Kent & Sussex.