The Wine Garden Recommends with Gusbourne's CEO
Discover Kent’s best kept foodie secrets, hidden gems and wine recommendations with all the insider information from the Wine Garden of England’s food and wine experts…
This month, tantalise those taste buds as Winemaker and CEO Charlie Holland from Gusbourne shares his local recommendations for the tastiest dishes, finest wines and stunning spots in the county…
What might we find you doing on a standard day at Gusbourne?
I have one of those jobs where there is no typical day – it’s one of the reasons I like it so much! In the first few months of the year, I can often be found tasting the base wines from our different vineyards and making up the blends for our Brut Reserve, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs sparkling wines. Every year gives us different flavours, and we have different vineyards and different grape varieties to take account of, so there is always a huge diversity to be tasted. I really enjoy the art of putting them all together to create something really layered and complex. At other times of year, I could be doing anything from driving a forklift, to tasting grapes in the vineyard with Jon, our vineyard manager, to overseeing our bottling line.
Tell us about your favourite Kentish spot to enjoy a glass of wine…
I’m a huge fan of the views from Rocksalt’s terrace in Folkestone harbour, and the amazing food complements a nice glass of English sparkling.
Tell us about the best Kentish dish you have ever tasted and where it was…
I went to the Sportsman in Seasalter and had gypsy tart – I’d never heard of it, but the waiter explained that it’s a traditional Kentish dessert made with evaporated milk. I think a lot of people would remember it from school dinners, so it hasn’t got the most gourmet reputation but needless to say, the Sportsman version was sensational.
Any foodie hidden gems or secret spots that you can let us in on? Go on, tell us!
The lobster shack at Dungeness is utterly unpretentious - there’s only a bench (or the shingle!) to sit on - but the quality of the fish is fantastic. Take a bottle of wine down there on a sunny day, get some fresh lobster and just kick back and relax.
Which Kentish chefs and wine makers should we be keeping our eye on in 2019?
For me, Charles and Ruth Simpson (of Simpsons estate near Canterbury) are taking a fresh approach to English Sparkling Wine making some great wines. I also love Squerryes over at Westerham, who are making very focused and elegant vintage sparkling. In terms of food, I think it goes without saying that Mark Sargeant does great things for Kent through his restaurants.
Tell us about a food and wine pairing you’ve discovered in Kent that has blown your mind...
It would have to be Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs, which is one of my favourite wines, when paired with Whitstable oysters. That salty, lemony tang, combined with the creamy mousse of the wine really works for me.
When you have visitors, what’s does your go-to Kent itinerary include?
I do take them to Gusbourne’s vineyards because people love to see them! But there are so many lovely gardens too – the more famous ones like Sissinghurst, but also less well-known like Godinton House and gardens in Ashford. I always make sure there are a few lovely country pubs on the agenda, like The Compasses in Crundale (just north of Ashford).