“Attention to detail: the key to fine wine and great companies”
We’re here today with Charlie Holland of Gusbourne Estates, a winery known for their meticulous approach to producing exceptional sparkling wines. Charlie has a very unique vantage point – having led Gusbourne’s winemaking – and now leading the whole company (as CEO), so we’re very excited to pick his brain today!
We have our questions for Charlie, and please don’t hesitate to chime in with your own.
Charlie, thanks for being with us today!
Hi Seth. It is my pleasure, thanks for inviting me.
I think the fact that someone who is so passionate about the actual craft of winemaking is now leading Gusbourne Estates speaks volumes about the authenticity of your commitment to producing the finest product available (and therefore your brand as well). Can you tell us a little more about your journey from Cellarhand to Winemaker to CEO of Gusbourne Estates?
My journey started nearly 20 years ago when I was given my first vintage opportunity at a winery in South Australia. I found the experience fascinating and loved the balance between farming, science and craftmanship.
I decided to retrain as a winemaker and after graduating with a degree in Oenology I travelled and worked extensively around the world for a number of years, trying to soak up as much knowledge and experience as possible.
My path eventually lead me back home to England and in 2013 I joined Gusbourne as Head Winemaker. I had been involved with the Gusbourne wines for a number of years before this point and had always been impressed by the quality of the vineyards and wines.
In 2016 I became CEO, a role I share alongside my winemaking responsibilities. This twin role provides me a unique position straddling both the production and commercial sides of the business.
In keeping with that, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how that passion and dedication translates not just to great sparkling wine, but to a brand that supports and communicates that message?
Passion and dedication are central to everything we do at Gusbourne and this is crucial in our pursuit of producing authentic wines that can compete with some of best wines from around the world.
However, this isn’t just rhetoric – we have an amazingly talented, passionate and grounded team here at Gusbourne who truly believe in what we are trying to achieve. I think this passion naturally comes through, not only in the quality of the wines, but in how we present, communicate and engage with our customers.
Not surprisingly, your product and brand have proven quite effective at exuding a premium position. So, with your CEO cap on, what are some of the main things you’re thinking about when you define strategy for commercializing that position?
Our wines are most often found in luxurious locations, be it 5-star hotels, fine dining restaurants or boutique independent and prestige retailers. We see this as the natural home for Gusbourne wines.
We are constantly striving to make our wines better with each vintage. No corners are cut and decisions are often long-term based upon quality rather than immediate profit. We blend our wines from 120 individually vinified parcels and conduct rigorous green harvests during the growing season to ensure absolute concentration in our fruit. These practices are vital in protecting our brand integrity.
Our wines have provenance and authenticity. We only make vintage wines at Gusbourne and from grapes we have grown in our own vineyards. This gives us complete control over quality, but also allows us to make wines with a sense of place that is unique to us.
The quality of our branding also needs to be equal to what is inside the bottle. The same attention-to-detail we put into the winemaking goes into the look and feel of our packaging, the labelling of our wines and the care in which our team take to dispatch them in the best condition.
I would imagine reaching, winning, and empowering your greatest fans and advocates is an important part of your approach. And it appears from your Facebook and Instagram presence that events and occasions seem to be a big part of that plan. Can you tell us more about this and how you find you have the most impactful interactions with your consumers?
Being able to tell the Gusbourne story and introduce people to our wines is a great way of raising awareness, but if this can be done through direct interaction it is much more effective.
We have found the best way to do this is to encourage people to visit us here at the vineyard, so have put significant investment into a new clellar door which we launched in 2017. This is a great way of communicating who we are and what we do. We have beautiful vineyards and our winery on the same site, and we would like to show them to the world! We run a variety of different tours and tastings, have a programme of chef-takeovers during the summer, we’re developing in-vineyard tasting and dining experiences and are even hosting a 10k run through the vineyards this summer!
We also organize lots of external events each year, often in association with top restuarants and hotels where we sell our wines. Our wines are carefully matched with exciting chef’s menus in stunning settings. By providing people with a special, positive experience, they are more likely to repeatedly buy our wine in the future, but will also act as ambassadors for your brand.
We also work in partnership with other similarly placed luxury brands from different sectors to put on a series of events throughout the year. This is a good way of introducing their customers to our brand and vice versa. Themes for these events are often developed through the synergies we find with these like-minded brands, be it great British craftmanship, fragrance and aroma, meticulous attention to detail or the way certain foods complement our wines.
Finally, we always like to wrap up by looking ahead. And the future looks quite bright for Gusbourne Estates! Can you give us 3 predictions for the future of the sparkling wine category overall? (…Where’s it heading? What external forces might come into play? Etc.)
Global sparkling wine sales will continue to rise as they have done in recent years. The Prosecco machine shows no signs of slowing, but there will also be sales growth sales for other high quality traditional method wines outside of Champagne (England being a major beneficiary!).
We have seen significant investment in sparkling wine tourism and experiences around the world as producers try to diversify their offering and create new experiences. I think this is likely to continue over the next few years.
Climate change and unpredictable weather patterns will slowly change the boundaries of where it is and isn’t possible to grow grapes for high quality sparkling wine.
Charlie, thanks so much for taking the time to share your story with the industry today. We wish you all the best with everything!
Thanks Seth, a pleasure speaking to you
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