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2012 Gusbourne Estate, Pinot Noir, Kent
Gusbourne Estate has become a standard-bearer of high quality English sparkling and still wines. The estate has been awarded the IWSC English Wine Producer of the Year in 2013 and their wines continue to go from strength to strength.
The estate sits on the low slopes of the ancient Kentish escarpment at Appledore. The extensive two hundred hectare Estate is on a single site with twenty hectares under vine cultivation with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
They are currently planting a further ten hectares of these Champagne clone vines, placing the extent of the plantings amongst the largest vineyards in England. The entire Estate consists exclusively of south facing slopes thereby ensuring that for most of the summer months the vines bask in a relatively warm and dry local microclimate. Located only 6 miles from the coast, the sea has a moderating influence on the weather, providing a long growing season. Together with the Estate’s clay and sandy loam soils, these particular conditions help ensure the production of exceptional quality grapes.
The first mention of Gusbourne Estate dates back to 1410, when John de Gosborne’s will was filed. Subsequently the estate passed to Philip Chute, a man of distinction and great wealth who won fame and the gratitude of Henry VIII at the siege of Boulogne on September 14th 1544. He had served as the standard bearer to the men of arms of the Kings Band. ‘Goosbourne’ as it was known then, carried the characteristic three geese crest that now adorns the small parish church in Appledore. Today they pay tribute to their heritage by using the same three geese on all of their bottles.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.