Gusbourne Estate, based in Appledore in Kent, who own 16 vineyards across Kent and West Sussex, has just produced the UK’s most expensive sparkling wine and what it claims to be the most definitive expression of modern English winemaking.
Fifty One Degrees North is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from the star 2014 vintage. Its name is a nod to the co-ordinates of the Gusbourne Estate winery. The vineyard was first planted in 2004. It favours mainly Burgundian clones.
Chief Winemaker and CEO, Charlie Holland, say:
“The 2014 harvest produced great grape constancy and quality. We had a long warm spring, summer-flowering and rain in August before an early October harvest. I consider the best vintage I have seen in my career.”
A blend of two-thirds Chardonnay, one-third Pinot Noir, the fruit comes from structured chalk and flint. Whole bunches were pressed and fermented predominantly in stainless steel tanks, with a small percentage in oak barrels to add complexity.
During its 80 months ageing on lees, Charlie and his team tasted the wine twice yearly to monitor and adjust the profile, eventually settling on 2022 as the optimum time for release.
“Fifty One Degrees North’s complexity affords it the stature to be enjoyed on its own as an aperitif with the flavours deserving of the wine-lover’s full attention, while also standing up as a companion for food, continuing to evolve in the glass as it is enjoyed with your meal.
“It is the culmination of decades of thought, work and expertise. We believe we have achieved our goal – to create a wine that is the highest expression of what we do, that represents provenance and Gusbourne’s authentic sense of place and time.
“What stands out is the pronounced stone and orchard fruit flavours alongside typical English citrus fruits – characteristics that are distinctively representative of the terroir of Gusbourne’s vineyards in our little corner of the country. Nature presented us a gift in 2014.”
Fifty One Degrees North is available to purchase for £195 from Gusbourne from this month or via its exclusive launch partner, Fortnum & Mason from October.
It is also listed by a number of leading UK restaurants including Oxfordshire’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, The George and Trinity in London, north-west Wales’s Ynyshir, Moor Hall in Lancashire, Four Seasons Hampshire, Fordwich Arms and The Pig at Bridge Place in Kent. Ockendon Manor in west Sussex. The Gilpin in the Lake District’s, Winteringham Fields in Lincolnshire and The Gannet, Glasgow.
Holland, who has produced just under 4,000 bottles of the wine, adds:
“Our aspiration was to create the finest sparkling wine from England and also a wine that sits comfortably alongside the finest sparkling wines from all around the world. We have been regularly tasting this first vintage of Fifty One Degrees North alongside the great sparkling Wines of the world as it has been ageing in bottle and genuinely believe that it holds its own in such esteemed company.
Fifty One Degrees North is the absolute definition of Gusbourne wines and represent everything that we stand for.
The future opportunity for English sparkling and still wine continues to be incredibly exciting, and we view the release of this wine as another step forwards in the collective evolution of the category.”
Holland studied at Plumpton College and has worked in wineries around the world. He joined Gusbourne in 2013.
His winemaking philosophy centres around ‘balance’, letting the wine show its sense of place, in hand with careful and subtle intervention to ensure consistency.
“It’s still early days but English wine is developing its own identity and it’s exciting to be part of this new frontier of winemaking, where every day and every vintage is different. But 2014 is absolutely special.”
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Gusbourne Estate