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Gusbourne launch raises price bar for quality English fizz

Published:  14 September, 2022

English sparkling wine is set to reach for new heights with the launch of Gusbourne’s 51° North 2014 sparkling wine, which comes in at a smart £195 retail.

The wine, of which only 4,000 bottles have been made, is a Chardonnay-dominant and Pinot Noir blend, with fruit sourced from top plots across Gusbourne’s Kent and Sussex vineyards, whole bunch-pressed and aged for 80 months on lees, to be released in outstanding years only.

Speaking at a launch event at London’s 19 Greek Street, winemaker Charlie Holland described 51° North as “a big deal for us as a business”, saying, “we’ve been working towards this for quite some time”.

He added: “We asked ‘what could be the best expression of Gusbourne and who we are?’, suggesting that the price tag – the highest yet for an English wine – would also help boost the already positive image of English sparkling wine and “challenge market perception”.

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The wine was introduced in three separate pours over time from the same bottle, to show how it opened out and developed in the glass, giving insight into its qualities and complexity – and it certainly delivered.

At the launch, Gusbourne was effectively described as a work in progress, with global brand ambassador Laura Rhys MS introducing the tasting with two pairs of single vineyard 2017 Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs, respectively, from quite different sites, to allow greater understanding of the variety offered by clay and limestone soils across south-eastern England, along with the different microclimates.

“[The idea] is to build up a picture overall of what we have in the vineyards, to map out understanding of where the special sites are,” she said of the single vineyard release series, adding that the estate could potentially draw on up to 300 components for blending in its sparkling wines. 

Harpers understands that a second release of 51° North is already on the cards, with the wines currently sitting on lees in the cellar, but both Holland and Rhys refused to be drawn on any further details, such as vintage.

What is certain is that with its discreet yet compellingly modern labelling and price tag to match, 51° North will play its part in turning more heads to the quality possible from England’s growing roll call of quality sparkling wines.