October 3, 2011

Apples and Vines – Hush Heath Vineyard

By In Vineyard & Wine Travel
They chose to make a pink sparkling wine simply “because it makes me smile”. With a marketing head on they – that’s Richard Balfour-Lynn and his wife – were after a distinct point of difference too. From the heart of England’s great fruit growing region of Kent, the Balfour family with winemaker Owen Elias and the guidance of Stephen Skelton MW, have “mediocre champagne” firmly in their sight.They have only produced five vintages of the flagship Balfour Brut Rosé, one of which, the 2007 all went to British Airways. Production will be capped at 100,000 bottles from their 400 acre estate; the vines nestling between verdant apple orchards and wild woodland.As Richard explained they set out to produce the Balfour Brut Rosé sparkling with a “really pale apricot colour” “we like the idea of a very pale, very dry, wine. I like the idea of accommodating different vintages, the variations… “and thus not producing a brand year after year. A difficult job, the latter, I imagine given the vagaries of the English weather. And this point was highlighted with a discussion of the differing years – 2011, for example, was classed as a “classic English weather” (although the early October heat-wave was yet to come) but the flowering period was “terrible”.

A stroll through the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines demonstrated this. Many bunches had uneven ripening of grapes – like in the photo – some still small, hard and green, others ready to burst with juice all on the same bunch. Not easy to accommodate during picking if those bunches with ‘any green’ are rejected.

The impression one leaves with is of dedication and a very dedicated focus on the whole production. Millions have been invested in one of the cleanest, most sparkling winery I’ve encountered. As Richard continued every aspect has been analysed and debated. From the drainage, the plant coverage, the selection of vines… “you cannot make great wine without great grapes”.

Interestingly Richard stated that he does not want to be part of the English wine scene but aims to compete with the top champagne houses. “But we are not champagne. It is from Kent with its own distinct flavour and taste. A longer growing season gives better aromatics and higher acidity. The acidity is the key and spectacularly English”.
The Hush Heath Estate is not open to the public. Their Balfour Brut Rosé [Adegga / Snooth] has limited off-trade distribution (a little goes to Waitrose, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols etc) with 90% of production going to the on-trade (Hotel du Vin, Bistro du Vins and Pub du Vin outlets, St. Pancras and Paddington Champagne Bars and so on).

The estate also produces a refreshing apple juice – one that also demonstrates vintage variations – and, newly launched, a still Chardonnay and a still Rosé. The Balfour Brut Rosé is “not a sitting down for dinner drink” but with its high acidity does mean it goes very well with food “I like it with kidneys”, finished Owen…

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Top :: Comments

  1. George Wroblewski October 4, 2011

    Richard produces excellent wines but it is a shame that they are hard to get hold of here in the northwest.

  2. Tara October 4, 2011

    Such a beautiful location isn’t it? I love this wine, so full of bright fruit with excellent balance and depth – I’d be hard pressed to distinguish it from rose Champagne in a blind tasting. When I visited the winery, I had a chat with Richard, see the video here: http://winepassionista.com/?p=856

  3. […] in colour. The other sets will be a selection (a maximum of five photos are allowed per entry) from Visiting Hush Heath Estate and a simple three photo set entitled Red, White and Rosé. For the latter I still need to take a […]

  4. […] to the Born Digital Wine Awards photograph section. Was considering entering the whole article (Apples and Vines, a Visit to Hush Heath Vineyard) in a writing category but went for the photo category alone in the end. Photography is certainly […]


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