An enlightening hosted tour around Gusbourne vineyard, a luxurious 3 course meal with complementing wines to tickle your tastes buds and picturesque views that reconnect you with nature…Would you believe me if I said you can find all this just a hop, skip and a train ride from London St Pancras?
Jump aboard the High Speed (HS1) and take in the exquisite scenic views of the Garden of England as you travel to Ashford International. From there, a quick transfer takes you to the quaint Appledore station and then you are just a 7-minute taxi ride from Gusbourne.
Before arriving at Gusbourne, I will admit, I was a bit sceptical. Having done vineyard tours abroad, I wasn’t quite sure how an English Vineyard would compare. I am happy to say that I stood delightfully corrected and it was every bit as, if not more, beautiful than any European vineyard I’ve been to. Who knew we had this kind of elegance and beauty right on our doorstep!
Gusbourne is a vineyard that focuses on vintage English sparkling wines and although the first vines weren’t planted until 2004, some of their history dates back to 1410. Named after John De Goosebourne, who was the landowner of the estate back then, they decided to honour his family crest of 3 geese and even reference it in their logo, which is a beautiful line drawn goose, and can be seen proudly on each glass and bottle.
Divine Discovery Tour
On arrival at Gusbourne, we are greeted onto the ‘Discovery Tour’ by Anna who, with her Emma Thompson warmth, makes you feel so welcomed as if you are a guest at her home. At this point we were offered our first drink of the day, which was a glass of their Brut Reserve. With its bright citrus and fruit notes, it is the perfect welcome drink to take in the stunning views of the vines around you.
As we wait for the rest of the guests to arrive and all sip on our first delectable delight, we are invited to join Anna as she gives us a tour of the spectacular estate in the sunshine, which spans over 150 acres. Anna has a wealth of knowledge, not only about the history of Gusbourne, but the grounds, the grapes, the vines and gives us a chemistry lesson of the whole process of wine making from grape to glass.
To say the winemaking team at Gusbourne are experts of their crafts would be an understatement, they are masters. We find that Gusbourne grows 3 varieties of grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Anna’s endless and insightful knowledge was exceptional and I truly came away feeling like I’d learnt a lot. We were even lucky enough that day to be able to go into the winery later in the tour to see where the magic happens. We are told that if a year doesn’t produce the quality of grape they see fit for their wines, they simply don’t release it that year. Their honesty for the quality they want to produce is almost as refreshing as the wine itself.
As if by magic, we stumble upon a canopy that, very handily, is midway through our vineyard tour and happens to be over a bar that has the exact amount of glasses per guest pre-set. Anna is very set on keeping us hydrated, so as she gets the next bottle of sparkling wine ready, we sip on some much-needed H2O in the shade of the canopy, still surrounded by endless views of vines. It’s here we try the second (and my favourite) wine of the day, Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2013, which has a vibrant taste with smooth hints of honey and bready notes.
Anna is not only our tour guide, but our personal taste tester as she ensures each bottle’s quality. It’s here Anna gives us a masterclass in how to taste wine. Thankfully she didn’t ask me to spit it out because frankly, I would’ve point blank refused to do so anyway. Firstly, you are supposed to swirl the wine around the glass to release the aromas and inhale, (apparently we have more receptors in our nose than we do in our mouth, everyday is a school day!) Next you take a sip and are supposed to slurp air in your mouth to fully release the flavours.
I will tell you now, you will not sound or look attractive whilst doing this, but you really can appreciate and detect many more of the perfectly blended flavours. Finally, you move the wine around your mouth to coat each taste bud. Embarrassingly, in the past when I’ve been told to do this, I basically used the wine as a mouthwash but after watching Anna’s expert demonstration, I realised it was more of a slow swill than an aggressive rinse!
Nurtured in ‘The Nest’
We are then whisked to the ‘Nest’ through the vineyard for more wine tasting that will complement our seasonal 3 course meal, all prepared on site and as locally sourced as possible. The décor in the Nest is bright, open and rustic with huge glass windows so you can still bask in the glorious views. Some of the highlights of our lunch were the whipped butter which was lighter than air, the show stopping miso and lemon battered cauliflower (or chicken if you’re not vegetarian) and a perfect peach poached in Gusbourne Rosé 2018. Honestly if it was socially acceptable, I would’ve licked the plate clean. Huge compliments to the chef for not only the finest dining, but for also creating a vegetarian dish that stood at the same calibre and creativeness as the other dishes.
Each course had an accompanying and very generous glass of wine that Anna talked us through, helping us note the smells, flavours, and finishes. Accompanying our meal were Blanc de Blancs 2018 and the slightly older counterpart to my favourite from 2013 with lots of fruity and citrus notes. Blanc De Noirs, (which very surprisingly was a white wine) had highlights of red fruits such as raspberry and cherry. Finally the Rosé 2018 is a combination of Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier. A fresh, fruity rosé with an elegant finish.
At the end of the 4-hour tour, Gusbourne offers a chance to learn more about becoming an exclusive member or even purchase a bottle to take home with you. Being the generous host Anna was, and as the bottles were already opened, we were offered another glass to enjoy one final drink on the outside tables before our carriages arrived to take us home.
What a luxurious day. I still can’t comprehend how this paradise estate is just on my doorstep and I had no idea. Am I a convert to vintage English sparkling wines? Absolutely! Would I do this experience again? In a heartbeat. Will I be recommending all my friends to visit? 100%. I came away feeling enriched, educated, slightly tiddly and on cloud wine.
To discover more, visit: gusbourne.com
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All imagery courtesy of Gusbourne.