In 2013 Gusbourne became the first and only English winery to be admitted to the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. Seven years from their first ever vintage, we talk to executive chairman Andrew Weeber about transforming a ‘turnip patch’ in Kent into one of the leading exponents of English sparkling wine, and how the likes of Nyetimber, Camel and Ridgeview made it possible.
Gusbourne launched three sparkling wines from its 2013 vintage on the evening of January 12th in London: The Brut Reserve, Blanc de Blancs and Rosé.
Executive Chairman Andrew Weeber told The Buyer he was “very excited and, in a restrained way, also quite proud” to launch this vintage, almost 13 years after planting the first vines and seven years after launching his first vintage –which was 2006– in 2010. In his welcome speech he jokes about having “bought a turnip patch in Kent” – a huge understatement of course.
The AIM-listed estate hit the headlines last year after posting significant losses, as well as increased revenue.
For Weeber this is all part of a long-term plan.
“Hopefully, we are making wine which won’t be drunk for 20 years. We are really in it for the long haul. We aspire to be the best: whether you are or not, you have to aspire to be.”
Does he feel vindicated? after all, in 2004 planting vines was still pioneering:
“Actually, I think the English Wine industry had a lot of support,” he says. “We owe a lot of that to Nyetimber, to the Roberts family at Ridgeview and to Bob Lindo at Camel Valley because they set the bar at a very high level and everyone is trying to raise that. What was it that Isaac Newton said – ‘if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’”
Weeber outlines new efficiencies during harvest that allow all grapes to be pressed within two hours of being picked and points to the ever increasing variety of different parcels of wine: from different vineyards, varieties and clones; all in all from 62 hectares in Kent and West Sussex.
Staying ahead of the curve seems to be in Weeber’s DNA; evolution and building a good team is key.
Evoking finance guru Warren Buffet’s maxim of giving people autonomy and trusting them to do things they are good at, he notes: “We now have skills that not many in this industry have. This is also about financial management: imagine making a business plan with such variables as weather, vintage and yields.”
Weeber credits his team. Viticulturist Jon Pollard was appointed COO last year and winemaker Charlie Holland was made CEO.
“Jon’s been here since the first vine was planted,” Weeber says, “while Charlie has been with us since we made wines at Ridgeview. They are the future. This is a generational business and we need to have continuity.”
Holland had brought along to the tasting tank samples of his 2016 vins clairs, the Chardonnays, two Pinot Noirs and a Pinot Meunier from different sites: just a handful of up to 100 separately vinified building blocks of his blends. These base wines show the beauty of the hailed 2016 vintage. They are fresh but their bright acidity is ripe rather than raspy.
“2016 was a dream, healthy grapes and no rain at all at harvest,” Pollard remembers.
About the new 2013 releases Holland remarks that while the year was challenging “we’ve found that cooler vintages usually have great length.”
Here are his words on the three newly launched, deliciously brisk and ultra-English cuvées:
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2013 -100% Chardonnay – 12% ABV – 9g/l dosage – 100% MLF
“Of all the different, separately vinified clones from 14 different vineyard blocks the most saline make the elements of this.”
Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2013 – 55% Pinot Noir 27% Pinot Meunier 18% Chardonnay – 12% ABV – 9g/l dosage – 100% MLF
“This has the most components and is the most difficult wine to make. We want to make this a bit more fleshy, a bit more accessible.”
Gusbourne Rosé 2013 – 100 % Pinot Noir – 12% ABV – 7.4g/l dosage – 100% MLF
“We want a lot of fruit in our Rosé but we also want a lot of that savoury texture you get from Pinot Noir.”