Both in its name and in its unconventional colour scheme of blue and orange, Busi Jacobsohn is one of England’s most distinctive new wine brands. A single estate producer focussing entirely on 100% estate-grown vintage sparkling wines, I was excited to finally have a chance to visit this hugely promising family venture from husband and wife team, Douglas and Susanna Busi Jacobsohn.
The biggest take-away from my visit was just how passionate Douglas is about this project – it’s a genuine labour of love. The former chief executive of marine insurer, Skuld, was in his absolute element amongst his hand-manicured vines. Five hectares were hand-planted in 2015 due to persistent rains ruling out mechanical planting. Douglas continues to relish his time in the vineyard and maintains the vines daily. It’s very much a change of pace for Douglas, who explains: “Suddenly going from living life in cities and on aeroplanes I can now hold a bottle of my wine from my own vineyard in my hand – it’s so very rewarding.” His passion is endearing, and with the rolling hills that the vineyard overlooks, it’s no surprise to understand why it’s such a rewarding lifestyle.
Despite Susanna originating from Piedmont, and the couple having lived in France with a love for wine surrounding them, they had never considered the prospect of planting a vineyard in England initially. In truth, Douglas and Susanna did not even have plans for a vineyard when they purchased the country house and farm that houses the vineyard in 2014. However, a series of chance discussions, an extensive English Wine tasting, and a blending workshop at Hambledon paved the way for Busi Jacobsohn.
The vineyard stands at five hectares and approximately 20,000 vines, split between 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. The vines are all Burgundy clones which Douglas explained were best suited to the clay-rich greensand soils on which they sit. In addition, the vineyard takes a robust sustainability approach, including a minimal use of herbicides (with a plan to move to no herbicide use) due to the use of mechanical weed management.
Whilst releasing a few thousand bottles of the 2017 vintage Cuvée Brut a couple of years ago, it really feels like 2021 is the break-out year for Busi Jacobsohn. The leading duo of 2018 wines are a joyous and refined celebration of the stellar year for English Sparkling, with a fruit-forward generosity underpinned by brisk English acidity. However, the arrival of the tasting room and a chance for Douglas and Susanna to inject their cultural backgrounds into the experience, feels like when the story really starts to become complete.
I already knew that Susanna and Douglas were as foodie-focussed as I am, as we had previously shared food pairing ideas and recipes over social media. So it was a delight to sit down and taste the 2018 wines again over a light lunch, and put the wines to the test with some bold Scandinavian food flavours. The Cuvée Brut 2018 was unsurprisingly a delight with salmon gravlax (I’ve also paired rather successfully with salmon nigiri sushi and sashimi). But the most memorable was Douglas’s own signature dish, Jansson’s Temptation: buttery, creamy potato and onion seasoned with anchovies and breadcrumbs. This was a triumph with the Rosé Extra Brut 2018 as it perfectly accentuated the wine’s red fruit flavours.
The bright new tasting room overlooks the vineyards, and there’s the expected, strong Scandinavian influence in its minimalist elegance. Events and tours have taken a brief pause for harvest. However, tours can be requested and can be booked by appointment through the website. There are also a couple of new wines in the not too distant future – a Blanc de Blancs and a Blanc de Noirs, also from the excellent 2018 vintage. The Blanc de Noirs already shows lots of promise (I had a sneak preview during my visit, and will further tap into those beautiful food pairing ideas that Susanna specialises in when I revisit it).
Surely an English Wine name to watch, the wines both deliver a flavour sensation but also look the part. A further testament to that saw Busi Jacobsohn recently gain a special commendation in the Best English and Welsh Sparkling Wine Packaging category in the Drinks Business Awards 2021.
- By Appointment
Busi Jacobsohn Cuvée Brut 2018
Grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
This is the second vintage of wine from Busi Jacobsohn, but it feels that this exciting new estate is already starting to enter its stride. It’s a classic blend of 60% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir and 15% Pinot Meunier with 6g/l dosage.
The nose on this wine really appeals with aromas of crushed oyster shell, lemon zest, crunchy orchard fruit and a light seasoning of pastry.
The palate delivers on the promise of the nose – fine-tuned, linear acidity and crunchy green apples lead to riper pear and apricot flavours. This is really composed and fragrant, and, in my opinion, quite a step up on the first release.
Busi Jacobsohn Rosé Extra Brut 2018
Grapes: Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier
The Busi Rosé was made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with a small portion (7%) having been fermented in barrels. It has a low dosage of 4.6g/l.
I love the colour on this – there is no mincing of words here, this is definitely a rosé wine – confidently pink with an evocative nose to match. There’s cherry, red apple, raspberry and even a touch of candy apple.
It’s got a generous presence on the palate too, combining brisk, crisp acidity, but this is balanced with exuberant, ripe red fruit from that fantastic, warm 2018 vintage.
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