You'd be forgiven for doubting the above statement, but it's true: the Brits not only make sparkling wine, they can make it well. The trade has seemingly come from nowhere to be a strong contender on the world stage. There are now more than 500 vineyards producing commercially in Great Britain, with 71% of it sparkling.
The vineyards are in the south, with close proximity to the sea. The soil profiles vary across the producing areas, with many high in chalk and a welcoming home to Chardonnay. Others are full of clay, producing riper, rich soils ideal for Pinot Noir. The climate is cool and, as in Champagne, marginal for production, though it has to be said that the world’s so-called marginal areas produce some of its finest wines.
Located in Kent, Gusbourne are considered the gold standard for English sparkling wine. All of their fruit is estate-grown, their vines in Appledore on slopes running down to what, historically, would have been the coast and is now a damp, low-lying area. With the actual coast close by, the sea has a moderating influence on what is a south-facing, warm, dry microclimate.
The estate as it is today was established in 2004, with quality at the forefront of all decision-making. The clones planted are all from Burgundy, and Gusbourne’s viticultural practices follow the concept of lutte raisonnée (the reasoned struggle), a pragmatic approach involving minimal chemical intervention in the vineyards.
The focus on quality sees Gusbourne only produce vintage wine, and in taking all steps required to do so, in 2018 they dropped a third of the fruit on the ground, defining it as not good enough. With their ability to age slowly and gracefully, the Gusbourne sparkling wines sit comfortably amongst the best in the world.