Gusbourne launches England's most expensive sparkling wine
Gusbourne's prestige cuvée 51°North
Gusbourne's new wine has gone on sale as the most expensive English Sparkling Wine to be released to date.
It is an audacious move on the part of the sparkling wine producer but not a surprising one. After all, it shows the maturing of an industry and the cementing of a category when limited edition prestige cuvées emerge.
Two other big players in the English Sparkling Wine landscape have gone there before: Chapel Down with Kit’s Coty Coeur de Cuvée 2013 – the first wine to retail at £100 – and Nyetimber with their 1086 prestige cuvées in white and rosé, retailing at £150 and £175 respectively.
A big deal
Speaking at the London launch, Gusbourne winemaker Charlie Holland said the release was "a big deal." He had joined the house in 2013 and the idea was born then. The estate's founder, Andrew Weeber, had held some wines back from sale and tasted them with Holland. At the time, the estate was still young: the first vines had been planted in 2004 and the first sparkling wines of the 2006 vintage were released in 2010. Holland said he then thought: "What can we really achieve when we really try hard?" It took a while for all of this to be put into practice – but the 2014 vintage was to be the starting point. Only around 2,000 bottles were made.
The 2014 vintage
In southern England where Gusbourne's vineyards are in the counties of Kent and Sussex, 2014 was a warm year that resulted in grapes that were perfectly ripe with perfect acidity. Laura Rhys MS, who is Gusbourne's brand ambassador on one hand, but also a key part of the blending team alongside Holland described the wine as "full of crispness but with depth of fruit." Holland said that the new wine, named after the latitude of the vineyard, was "fundamentally about the best fruit, the lightest and purest juice, the best tanks and barrels. It is what Gusbourne stands for." Rhys added it was "the culmination of years and years of doing the best."
Gusbourne 51°North 2014 was made from 64% Chardonnay and 36% Pinot Noir, with just 10% of the base wines fermented in oak. It was bottled in April 2015 and stayed on its lees until December 2021, when it was disgorged with a dosage of 8g/l. The wine is made in a distinctly rich and gastronomic style with a really savoury intensity – almost like a mini-Krug. When I put this to Holland, asking him if the style had been modeled on that icon, he said: "We wanted something different. We wanted tertiary development, malo-lactic fermentation, a bit of oak..." and trailed off smiling. The new wine certainly is incredibly well made and delicious. It also has the stuffing to age and evolve. Further editions from excellent vintages are planned. The question as to whether it warrants its price tag is the same as for every other prestige cuvée – what is more important is that it is a stylistic statement and a sign of a maturing, professional industry.
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