Gusbourne - Charlie Holland
“We are enlightened traditionalists with one foot in the past and one foot in the future.”
How did you get started out in the industry?
When starting my winemaking career, I always wanted to work somewhere warmer than the UK, so my first experience was working as cellarhand in Australia back in 2000. I was then lucky enough to spend many years travelling and making wine in some beautiful places around the world. Eventually my path lead me back to England where I was able to bring all of the skills I had learnt in other countries and put them into practice here in Kent.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
As both Head winemaker and CEO at Gusbourne, my job is extremely varied and no two days are the same. This could involve anything from tasting and preparing blends for bottling, buying equipment for next harvest or showing guests around the estate.
What is the most hands-on element of your job?
Harvest is our busiest (and most exciting) time of the year and it is important that everyone gets stuck in. This could mean picking grapes, loading the press or cleaning out tanks.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
There are so many proud moments when I think about what we have achieved at Gusbourne in a relatively short space of time, but having our wine served at Buckingham Palace has to be a highlight.
If you didn’t do this, what do you think you would be doing?
I would be a chef. I think there are a lot of similarities between winemaking and cooking – creativity, craftsmanship, attention to detail. Above all I enjoy working with great raw ingredients that stimulate the senses
Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I still have 6 baby teeth
If you could share a bottle of wine with anyone in the world, who would it be (and why)?
Ernest Hemmingway – he liked a drink and could tell a good story.
Describe your favourite wine and food pairing.
Whitstable oysters or Rye Bay Scallops with Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs – Kent produce that seem to be made for one another.
What is your favourite place you’ve visited?
I spent most of my childhood holidays camping in the Lake District. The natural beauty is very uplifting and relaxing (as long as you don’t mind the rain).
Describe yourself in three words.
Measured, passionate, creative
What is special/unique about your brand?
We believe that the only way to ensure the quality of our grapes is to grow them ourselves. We have 14 different vineyard sites, each with up to 40 different clones. Where possible we pick, press and ferment each block and may have up to 200 individual components. Each component has a different character and style. Our job is then to create wines that reflect the place they are grown and let the grapes very much speak for themselves.
Whilst many English vineyards are based on chalk, our soils are varied and comprise of clay, silt and sand. Whilst this goes against conventional thinking, this unique soil is becoming known for producing exceptional, award winning wines.
Tell us about your location in Kent.
Looking out over the Romney Marsh, the Gusbourne estate (first mentioned in 1410) is situated on an ancient escarpment that used to form the seashore hundreds of years ago. The Saxon Shore way, an ancient footpath that used to trace the Kent coastline, neatly dissects our vineyards. We regularly find historic artifacts that show the rich history of the area, the most interesting being a Neolithic flint dating back to 5000-2000BC.
What do you envisage for the development of English wines within the international marketplace in the next 5 years?
English sparkling wine is now known for its quality in many countries around the world (Gusbourne is now available in 16 countries and represents a third of our sales), but this is a relatively new situation. Over the next 5 years the reputation of English wine will continue to grow in stature and will increasingly become a must have fixture on any international wine list.
What do you think makes Kent unique compared to other wine regions?
Kent has a rich agricultural history and, as the Garden of England, is well known for producing some of the best fruit in the country. Our unique mix of climate, soils and people enable us to make exceptional wines that can rival the best from around the world.