Flavour & Savour | 24th April 2023
Soak up spring in an English vineyard
As spring unfolds around us, we journey into the producer’s gently rolling vineyards to see life return to the vines.
In the south of England, amidst the old Kentish oast houses and apple orchards, you’ll find one of the country’s finest winemakers, Gusbourne. As spring unfolds around us, we journey into the producer’s gently rolling vineyards to see life return to the vines.
A vineyard is a stark place in winter. The vines, with their gnarled, woody trunks stand dark and bare against steel-wire trellises. There’s a raw beauty to it – an intense contrast to spring’s lush, vibrant return.
In the first days of April, as we search the sky for the year’s first Martins, it’s possible to think spring has sidestepped the vineyards. The quiet rows of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier seem sullen in the face of drifts of orchard blossom and banks of nodding daffodils.
But step a little closer and you’ll discover a different story. At the tip of each carefully pruned cane, a delicate jewel-like tear of sap glistens. This is the plant’s way of showing that it’s getting ready: the temperature is rising, it’s drawing water into its roots and soon buds will follow.
At Gusbourne, it’s also time for Jon, the Chief Vineyard Manager, to call the shepherds. The characterful flocks of Romney sheep – who graze their way through the Kent and Sussex vineyards each winter – must move back home. The vines’ tender buds and shoots are a too great a temptation for this perpetually hungry woolly workforce.
Jon’s grateful of course. The Romneys have played an important part in the vineyards’ yearly cycle. “The sheep reduce the abundance of some of the weeds underneath the vines, eating some, trampling others,” Jon explains. “Their delicate feet don’t compact the soil and delay the need for any tractors in the vineyard.” They’re generous too – returning the nutrients they take to the land. It’s a perfect relationship.
All is poised. Ready. As spring’s pulse quickens, the vines have their cue: in mid-April their buds begin to swell and grow before bursting into life. A haze of lime-zest green washes through the vineyard in a release of colour and life. Whatever else is happening in the world, nature never misses a beat.
Jon keeps a farmer’s eye on the forecast. Cool nights are to be expected, but he hopes the frosts are over. The tender buds are easily damaged.
Gusbourne’s vineyard team – the caretakers of this special slice of Kent clay and loam soil and Sussex chalk and flint – know the season’s work is about to begin in earnest. There are decisions to be made about mowing, cover crops, nutrients, wildflower sites and more.
As a producer which only makes vintage wines, there’s no room for a miss-step. Each variable – each tiny detail – helps Gusbourne grow their way to more flavourful, perfect quality fruit. It means when you enjoy their wines – such as the award-winning Blanc de Blancs – you’re tasting a moment in time, and a true expression of this special place.
If you’d like to visit the vineyard, you’ll find a warm welcome at the Gusbourne estate in Appledore, Kent. You can learn more about Gusbourne’s wines at one of their tastings or experiences. And, of course, you can enjoy Gusbourne by the glass or bottle at many of your favourite PoB Hotels.