We take a trip to the Balfour winery to see how they successfully pair their wines with locally produced foods.
Balfour has long been considered one of England’s most successful and innovative wineries since it began producing its award-winning wines at Hush Heath Estate in Staplehurst in 2002.
This year he is celebrating two decades in the business and the good news is that the brand, which was created by local entrepreneur Richard Balfour-Lynn when he bought the surrounding 400 acres of land around his Hush Heath home Manor to plant vines, continues to go from strength to strength.
Not only does Balfour now produce premium bottles of sparkling and still wine every year, they also make a variety of lagers, non-alcoholic wines, ciders and juices.
Hospitality is clearly a key part of everything Balfour does, which is why it is heavily invested in The View, a state-of-the-art tasting room and restaurant. The venue, which opened in 2018 and overlooks the Nanette vineyard, is the beating heart of the client side of this renowned vineyard.
Balfour has also steadily grown its portfolio of pubs and hotels, so if you can’t make it to the original vineyard anytime soon, you can experience the spirit of this unique winery at one of its nine independent establishments.
The boutique collection of inns ranges from local locations 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 at London’s Smithfield Market and The Falcon in The Cotswolds.
But it was at The View that we were invited to taste the sweetness of life at Balfour.
The beautifully appointed, split-level open dining room features many interesting contemporary artworks, a well-stocked boutique and a stunning terrace with magnificent pastoral views. Arriving there on a sunny Friday afternoon with the sun beating down, it is clear that this is the perfect place to sit down and relax.
We’re here to sample their popular sharing platters alongside a tasting ‘flight’ of three classic Balfour wines. The menu is divided into three sections: Charcuterie, Local cheese and Seasonal vegetables. The idea is to choose six (£35) or nine items (£45) to make a decent sized platter accompanied by fresh bread, crackers, quince and mixed olives.
Meat lovers will be delighted with the quality choices offered by Moon’s Green Charcuterie, which includes spicy salami beer sticks, aromatic rosemary and garlic sausage and slivers of Sussex beef bresaola. When it comes to cheese, you can opt for a creamy Kingcott Blue, a gooey Bowyers Brie, or eat a piece of Sussex Charmer – or go for all of them if your taste buds guide you that way.
“The cheese and charcuterie choices are beautifully enhanced by the selection of seasonal vegetable dishes offered at The View”
Whichever you choose, it’s worth noting that the cheese and charcuterie choices are beautifully enhanced by the selection of seasonal vegetable dishes on offer. These included on our visit a wild garlic and spring onion potato salad, a rich pea and mint hummus and smoked peppers. Our host recommended that we also try the spicy poached pears which we declared a triumph with the more cheese on offer.
And although they were tapas-style sharing platters, they still managed to fill us up – even my notoriously foodie guest was impressed!
For our “flight”, a trio of classic Balfour offerings were on the menu: an intensely fruity Blanc de Noirs 2018, the very tangy Leslie’s Reserve Brut NV and a deliciously fragrant Leslie’s Reserve Rosé NV. (Prices from £5, with a Premium selection from £10).
Feeling pleasantly sated, we peeked into the impressive boutique and tasting room, also known as the Cellar Door – a traditional name for this region. It sells everything from individual bottles to cases of wine, beer, cider and soft drinks, as well as a tempting selection of artisan Mimi Coco chocolates.
There is also information here on the three different types of Balfour Wine Club membership. 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 year or £600 for four). Each offers a plethora of exclusive perks and discounts and is a must for any wine lover.
The famous Balfour Wine Estate also offers self-guided walks through its ancient vineyards, forests and orchards, all year round.
To toast Balfour’s 20th anniversary, The View is hosting a variety of special events. So far this year, he has hosted father and son estate winemakers Owen and Fergus Elias as part of the launch of his Winemakers Collection to talk about their making process. On June 2 it’s hosting a special cocktail party and later this month Balfour will host a Father’s Day tasting with Jake’s Drinks (June 19 £35 pp), a Summer Nature tour (June 26 £55 pp).
There will also be numerous Balfour Dining Club four-course dinners (£95pp) throughout the year. These are hosted by Executive Chef Dan Austin with Head Winemaker, Fergus Elias, who pairs each dish with a Balfour wine. Sounds like the perfect match to us!