Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Hushed up! Hush Heath Estate and their Wines

There is no occasion in life where bubbles doesn't make things better. Take the humble bathing ritual. Yeah, you have your rosehip and acacia bath salts, or your candy floss bath bombs, but throw in some proper bubble bath and what was seen as a pointless exercise as a child, turns into an opportunity to sculpt Wembley Stadium in suds. The same can be said when it comes to drinks, it has to be said: Squash is good, but Orangeade is better; Apple juice is fine, but Cider is awesome; Wine is great, sparkling wine is off the richter scale...

Prosecco has been the real 'sparkler' when it comes to driving the recent sparkling wine growth, but with national pride in our own produce overflowing more than a blocked up u-bend, English Sparkling Wine has gone from strength to strength. When I got the chance to attend a tasting with Hush Heath Estates, one of the upcoming stars of the sparkling scene, it didn't take me long to buff up my flute glass and race on over to the Rose Villa Tavern in Birmingham.

Hush Heath Estate has been around since the early 16th Century, but it wasn't until the present occupiers, Richard and Leslie Balfour-Lynn took up residence in the 1980's that the wine side started to ramp up in importance. With 40 acres of land under vine, 2010 was where it all kicked off when the estate's high-tech winery opened, with more top notch equipment than you can shape a Curry's shaped stick at.

Greeted by our hostess for the evening, Zoe, me and other intrigued attendees from the company I work for settled in for some quality tasting time. First off, we sampled some of their still wines to fire up the tastebuds. Poured into our glasses to start with was the delicately pink 'Nannettes' English Rose (£15 at the Cellar Door), a slightly lighter and crisper tasting Provence style of rose, showing all the hallmarks of the scents of the quintessential English garden (we can all be a bit wine-poncey ever now & then...), followed up by 'Skye's' English Chardonnay (£16.50 from the Cellar Door), with its sharp citrus and minerally nature, very reminiscent of what Petit Chablis brings to the table. Very well made stuff, and set me up well for what was to follow.

The next corks to get popped were wines from the Balfour 1503 range. The name relates to the family name and also the year that the actual manor was built. The 1503 Brut (£19.98 at Majestic Wine) is made mainly from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with a years ageing in bottle. Very light in character and typically citric with lemons and apple notes on both the nose and the palate, the bubbles stuck around for a fair old while. A decent bottle of fizz, if not completely game-changing stuff.

The 1503 Rose (£19.98 at Majestic Wine) is produced predominantly from Pinot Noir and was much more my bag. Juicy, fresh, soft on the tongue, the strawberry and cranberry fruits didn't hold back and smacked the tastebuds like a precise right hook to the chops. A proper Bobby Dazzler of a rose.

Last up was the Balfour Brut Rose (£35.99 at Waitrose Cellar). A bit of background reading had this as a Decanter Magazine 'Gold Award Winner', which ain't too shabby in my book, so I was gunning for this to be the stand out wine. Using the holy trinity of Champagne grape varieties (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay), it has 2 years worth of ageing. A bit more body, added to the extra touch of creaminess that the ageing brought, the summer fruits leapt out of the glass and danced the electric boogaloo on my taste buds. It was a really fruity mouthful if ever I'd tasted one. I'd go as far to say that if the 1503 Rose was the sporty, fun Porsche of the range, then this was undoubtedly the classy, luxurious Bentley. A brilliant bottle of bubbly. To round off the night, a refreshing bottle of Hush Heath's 'Jakes' Kentish Cider was thrust upon me (like I was fighting it...) for a nice finish to the evening.

If this tasting was anything to go by, English Sparkling wine is in safe hands with Hush Heath Estate. if you are ever in the Kent neck of the woods, its worth a pop in and try the wares yourself. Now, time to take that soda stream to my cup of tea and liven up my mornings a bit...

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