English wine. These words conjure an immediate reaction, usually of the less-than-positive variety! However, I’m a fan. I think the quality of wines from the land of the Royal Wedding, Wimbledon and fish ‘n chips, has come a long way.
If there are any English wines that are being taken somewhat seriously, it’s the sparkling ones. This may be due to the fact that the soil in the south of England resembles that of Champagne and therefore the same grape varieties thrive in both regions.
If you choose wisely, you will drink happily. Many of the wines produced here really are of excellent quality and can easily stand up to any other serious wine producing country in the world – even France! If you don’t believe me, see for yourself! And I suggest you start with the Balfour Brut Rosé, a sparkling Champagne-style rosé, planted, picked and produced in the English countryside.
Earlier this week I was invited, along with many of my wine-loving friends, to Kent for the opening of the Hush Heath Winery, the new home of Balfour Brut Rosé.
In 2000, Richard Balfour-Lynn, owner and producer of Balfour, acquired 400 acres of fruit farms surrounding his home, Hush Heath, (of which approximately 30 are devoted to vines) and in 2002, amongst the apple orchards and rose gardens, he planted Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes with the goal of making the finest sparkling rosé possible – bar none.
The inaugural vintage of the Balfour Brut Rosé was the 2004 which was awarded a Gold medal by the International Wine Challenge (IWC) in 2008 – not bad for a first go! That was followed in 2009 when Decanter awarded a Gold medal to the 2005 vintage – it seemed Balfour Brut Rosé was off to the races!
Richard and his winemaking team of Owen Elias (who has made the wine from the beginning) and Vicki Ash are completely uncompromising in the care and attention to detail they lavish on every aspect of the annual cycle of turning grapes into wine.
In his welcome speech, Richard explained “Our goal is to be absolutely the best, we’re totally, totally uncompromising in everything we do…The Balfour was designed to be very light, very fresh, very young and we seem to have succeeded in producing a taste that people like.”
I took advantage of the opportunity to wonder around the picturesque vineyards, orchards and gardens of the Hush Heath Estate, and caught up with Richard (and his dogs Liberty and Milou) in the garden outside his home and asked his thoughts on the English wine scene and he tells me which French rosé Champagne inspired his quest to be the best.
See what Richard had to say..
The wines we tasted:
Balfour Brut Rosé 2006
Nannette’s English Rose 2010 (bottled the previous day)
Skye Chardonnay 2010 (tank samples, not yet bottled)
There’s Always Time for Wine!
Tara – Wine Passionista