Balfour has long been considered one of the most successful and innovative of English vineyards since it started producing its award-winning wines at the Hush Heath Estate in Staplehurst back in 2002.
This year it celebrates two decades in the business and the good news is the brand, which was created by local entrepreneur Richard Balfour-Lynn when he bought the surrounding 400 acres of land around his home Hush Heath Manor to plant vines, continues to go from strength to strength.
Not only does Balfour now produce bottles of premium sparkling and still wine every year, it also makes a variety of lagers, non-alcoholic wines, ciders and fruit juices too.
Hospitality is clearly a key part of everything Balfour does which is why it’s heavily invested in The View, a state of the art tasting room, and restaurant. The venue, which opened in 2018 and overlooks Nanette’s vineyard, is the beating heart of the customer-facing side of things at this renowned vineyard.
Balfour has also steadily been growing its portfolio of pubs and hotels so if you can’t make it to the original vineyard any time soon then you can experience the spirit of this unique winery at any of its nine independent establishments.
The boutique collection of hostelries ranges from local places such as The Goudhurst Inn, The Tickled Trout in West Farleigh and The Woolpack in Tenterden, to those further afield including The Ship Inn in Rye, Balfour St. Barts in London’s Smithfield Market and The Falcon in The Cotswolds.
But it is The View which we have been invited along to in order to sample a taste of the good life chez Balfour.
The two-floor, beautifully appointed open plan dining area features lots of interesting contemporary artwork, a well-stocked shop and stunning terrace with gorgeous pastoral views. Arriving there one sunny Friday lunchtime with the sun beating down it’s clear that this is the perfect spot to sit back and relax.
We’re here to sample their popular sharing platters alongside a tasting ‘flight’ of three classic Balfour wines.. The food menu is divided into three sections: Charcuterie, Local Cheese and Seasonal Vegetables. The idea is to pick either six (£35) or nine items (£45) in order to make up a decent sized platter which comes accompanied by fresh bread, crackers, quince and mixed olives.
Meat lovers will delight in the quality choices on offer courtesy of Moon’s Green Charcuterie which includes spiced salami beer sticks, an aromatic rosemary and garlic saucisson and slivers of Sussex beef bresaola. In terms of the cheese, you can go for a creamy Kingcott Blue, a gooey Bowyers brie or chow down on a chunk of Sussex Charmer – or go for all of them if your tastebuds guide you that way.
“Both the cheese and charcuterie choices are beautifully enhanced by the selection of seasonal vegetable dishes on offer at The View”
Whichever you choose it’s worth noting that both the cheese and charcuterie choices are beautifully enhanced by the selection of seasonal vegetable dishes on offer. These included on our visit an über seasonal wild garlic and spring onion potato salad, a rich pea and mint hummus and smoky padron peppers. Our host recommended we also try the spiced poached pears which we declared a triumph with the moreish cheese on offer.
And although these are tapas style sharing platters they still managed to fill us up – even my notoriously greedy guest was impressed!
For our ‘flight’ a trio of classic Balfour offerings were on the menu: an intensely fruity Blanc de Noirs 2018, the super zesty Leslie’s Reserve Brut NV and a delicious fragrant Leslie’s Reserve Rosé NV. (Prices from £5, with a Premium selection from £10).
Feeling pleasantly sated we had a quick look around the impressive shop and tasting room which is also known as the Cellar Door – a traditional name for this area. It sells everything from single bottles to cases of both wine, beers, ciders and soft drinks and a tempting selection of artisan Mimi Coco chocolates.
There’s also info here on the three different types of membership to the Balfour Wine Club. The first is the Balfour Social (£150 per year), the second is the Balfour Vine Holder (£500 per year) and finally the Balfour Wine Society (£300 for two cases per annum or £600 for four). Each one offers a plethora of exclusive benefits and discounts and is a must for any wine buff.
The renowned Balfour winery also offers self-guided strolls around its vineyards and ancient woodlands and orchards – all year round.
To toast Balfour’s 20th anniversary The View is hosting a variety of special events. So far this year it has welcomed the estate’s father and son winemakers Owen and Fergus Elias as part of its Winemakers’ Collection launch to talk about their making process. On June 2 it hosts a special cocktail evening and later this month Balfour will be putting on a Father’s Day tasting with Jake’s Drinks (June 19 £35pp), a Summer Nature tour (June 26 £55pp).
There will be numerous four-course Balfour Dining Club dinners (£95pp) throughout the year too. These are hosted by Head Chef Dan Austin with Head Winemaker, Fergus Elias who matches each dish to a Balfour wine. Sounds like the perfect pairing to us!