Orthopedic surgeon Andrew Weeber part owned a vineyard in his native South Africa before moving to England in 1992. He purchased the Gusbourne Estate in 2003 and set about converting a former turnip field into a vineyard. With English sparkling wines by then having an established pedigree, he immediately planted the three classic Champagne cultivars - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier. The initial vineyard covered 20 ha and his aim was to produce permium quality sparkling wines. First grapes were harvested in 2006 and Gusbourne was able to release their first vintage in 2010. This met with an immediate positive response from critics, vindicating Weeber's hard work and investment.
In 2013 the Gusbourne Estate's 142 ha of land and buildings was acquired for £7.3 million by Shellproof plc, a company owned by the Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft. Shellproof already owned 20 ha of vineyards in West Sussex and the enlarged group is now known as Gusbourne plc, and trades on the AIM market. Weeber retains a 13% holding in the new venture as well as the position of non-executive Chairman. In 2014 they began planting an additional 40 ha of vineyards and a new winery and visitor facilities will follow.
The winemaker at Gusbourne Estate is Plumpton graduate Charlie Holland, who prior to this position had worked for four years at Ridgeview, so can be considered an experienced hand on the English sparkling wine scene.
Gusbourne sales amounted to £194k in the first half of 2014, equating to ca. 8,000 bottles. This should rise rapidly over the next few years.
(Images © Gusbourne Estate)
Gusbourne Estate, Brut Reserve, 2010
Pale straw; moderately aromatic, lemon, citrus, apple; dry, sharp acidity, citrus fruit, brioche, nuts; med+ length. (23 Oct 2014) Outstanding, 92/100
Gusbourne Estate, Blanc de Blancs, 2010
Pale straw; lemon, citrus, yeast; dry, sharp acidity, complex creamy citrus stewed fruit, nuts; med+ length. (23 Oct 2014) Outstanding, 93/100
Gusbourne Estate, Blanc de Blancs Late Disgorged, 2007
Pale gold; moderately aromatic, citrus, biscuit; dry, sharp acidity, great concentration and complexity of baked apples, brioche, nuts; med+ length. (23 Oct 2014) Exceptional, 95/100
Gusbourne Estate, Rosé, 2011
Pale copper; lemon, vanilla, strawberries; dry, clean acidity, creamy citrus and redfruit, biscuits; med length. (23 Oct 2014) Outstanding, 94/100