Laura Rhys Master Sommelier at Gusbourne

English Fine Wine with Laura Rhys

Discover English fine wine with Gusbourne

The English fine wine scene has transformed in the past decade. Spearheading that change is Gusbourne, the Kent- and Sussex-based wine producer renowned for crafting vintage wines of exceptional quality.

Here, we catch up with Laura Rhys, Master Sommelier, to hear more about how to get the most from your glass of Gusbourne.


Based near the pretty Kentish village of Appledore, surrounded by oast houses and apple orchards, you’ll find the Gusbourne estate.

The first vines were planted here in 2004. Back then, growing grapes this far north was considered a risk – viticulture at the margins of possibility.

But, thanks to Gusbourne’s extraordinary terroir – Kentish clay and Sussex chalk – benevolent microclimate and skilled, innovative team, their wines have become world-renowned.

The Best and Ripest Grapes

Gusbourne grows all their own fruit, using only the best and ripest grapes. This is especially important as they only make vintage wines: a challenge in some years. It means they have to be meticulous in their vineyard management and winemaking.

If you’re new to English wine, Gusbourne’s ambassador, Laura Rhys Master Sommelier, has some tips to help you get the most from your glass of Gusbourne.

1. Champagne is a useful reference point for tasting Gusbourne English sparkling.
“We use the same grapes as Champagne for our sparkling wine (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier),” says Laura. “And we make our wines in a way that’s inspired by vintage Champagne production. The wines are complex and aged on their lees. Stylistically, we’re much closer to Champagne than, say, Prosecco. But because we’re English, we’re also distinctly different.”

2. Our blend is Sussex chalk meets Kent clay.
The location of our vineyards is incredibly important. “In Kent, the soils are clay and sand,” says Laura. “This brings intensity and concentration to the grapes. Then we have our Sussex vineyards, which are chalk, flint, loam, sand and a little bit of clay. These wines have much more freshness and structure and heightened acidity. When you bring the two together, you get weight, ripeness, concentration, freshness and elegance. It’s why blending is so important. It’s what elevates Gusbourne wines.”

3. You can taste the way our wines are aged if you know what to look for.
We age our sparkling wines on their lees – the spent yeast. This sounds rather unappealing, but it’s important for flavour development. “Because of the length of time we age our wines, they have what we call ‘autolytic notes,’” explains Laura. “So, you might expect flavours of fresh brioche or toasted nuts. The lees-ageing also helps to increase the complexity of the wine. At Gusbourne, we have a balance of ripeness and freshness.”

Mary, head wine maker at Gusbourne

4. Gusbourne Brut Reserve is a great place to start
“Brut Reserve is deliciously easy to enjoy and it’s a great introduction to the quality of English wine,” says Laura. “It has a soft, round fruit character. There’s freshness and elegance from Chardonnay, weight and roundness from the red grapes and lovely autolytic notes such as toasted brioche. With food, it’s wonderful with lemon and herb roast chicken, fish or seafood.” You can also enjoy it as an aperitif.

5. There’s more to Rosé than meets the eye
You’ll find the flavours of Gusbourne Rosé remind you of strawberries, raspberries and cherries. But you don’t need a summer’s day to open a bottle: “It’s delicious with lots of earthy flavours such as smoked duck and beetroot,” says Laura. “And, as it starts to age, it develops a beautiful savoury character from the Pinot, along with spices, ginger and orange zest.”

6. Take time to savour Chardonnay
Our Blanc de Blancs, a wine made just from Chardonnay grapes, is a beautiful expression of the quality of fruit that comes from our vineyards. “It has a pure, very elegant fruit character,” says Laura. “Think green apple, citrus fruit, blanched almonds. As it starts to age, that complexity builds. The fruit character softens; new flavours of toasted nuts and biscuit emerge.” Seafood is a classic match. “Or what about fish and chips? Blanc de Blancs is a perfect foil to the richness of the batter,” says Laura.

7. Sniff like a sommelier
The approach to tasting English wine is universal. First swirl the wine and breathe it in. “Often, you’ll pick up fruit characteristics before anything else. See what you can identify – it might not be totally specific, but is it a citrus smell, or ripe and tropical? Think about families of flavours.” After you’ve identified the fruit flavours, then see if there’s anything more complex. “Think about toasty flavours, spices and – in older wines – anything more ‘tertiary’,” says Laura. “Biscuit, pastry, roasted nuts and mushrooms are classic tertiary smells.”

8. Go back to the glass
Every wine evolves in the glass as it’s exposed to air and changes temperature. “When you first pour a wine, you’ll often taste and smell those primary fruit aromas. Then, as the wine opens up, sit with the glass and chat with friends. Then return to the wine and smell it again and again. When you pour your second glass, it will taste slightly different to the first – you’ll notice it unfold and evolve with time.”

To find out more about Gusbourne, or to plan a visit to their estate in Appledore, Kent, go to

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