Kent winery releases English winemaking firsts

Kent’s Hush Heath Estate has released a set of English winemaking firsts, including a white wine containing all seven ‘Champagne’ grapes, a red made with just Pinot Meunier, and a zero-dosage fizz.

Called the Winemakers’ Collection, the launch comprise three wines, all from the 2018 harvest, and each made by a Hush Heath winemaker, who were given free rein to produce something innovative in the cellar.

To celebrate the set of novel wines, English abstract artist Keith Coventry was commissioned to create the labels (see picture, left).

Speaking exclusively to the drinks business about the trio of wines last week in Kent, owner of Hush Heath Estate Richard Balfour-Lynne said that last year’s vintage was “such a great year”, that he suggested his winemakers craft a “one-off wine, something they fancied making, but that you can’t find anywhere else.”

Meanwhile, Richard’s wife, Leslie, who is an art collector, chose Keith Coventry as the label-designer for the special releases, who she described as a brilliant, if “undervalued” artist.

The wines from the collection can be read about below:

  1. 1. Victoria Ash’s Blanc de Blancs is a 100% Chardonnay from the 2012 and 2013 vintages, barrel fermented, and matured in French oak for twelve months. With zero dosage, it is believed to be the first of its kind in England. It is named after Hush Heath head winemaker, Victoria Ash, who was behind its creation.

Commenting on the wine, she said, “For me it is the Chardonnay that really typifies the Hush Heath Estate, bringing forward herbaceous tones and powerful saline notes. These grapes come from specific blocks of very special vines. From my experiences in New Zealand, it was an exciting opportunity to put some of our best Chardonnay juice into old French Oak, and create a completely different style for the winery.”

2. This Septered Isle 2018 was made by assistant winemaker Fergus Elias who chose a play on the French word for seven for his wine, because it is a still white made from the seven permitted grape varieties used in Champagne. Apart from the Pinot Gris, the other six are all grown at Hush Heath – Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier, Arbanne and Pinot Meunier.

He explained: “I was inspired after tasting a sparkling base wine we made in 2014 with six of the Champagne grape varieties from the estate. It had fantastic complexity, and real still wine potential. But it was not until the exceptional 2018 harvest, and the unearthing of a small local parcel of Pinot Gris, that This Septered Isle was born.’

3. The Red Miller 2018 is still red from a single plot of exceptionally ripe Pinot Meunier made by Fergus’ father Owen, a consultant at Hush Heath. Harvested on 19 October last year, it was given three days fermentation on the skins, followed by a brief time in French and American oak, minimal filtration and no fining.

Owen commented, “Pinot Meunier is rarely seen as a still red anywhere in the world. Here we have a delicate and aromatic wine which will be extremely interesting as it develops over the next two years.”

Victoria Ash Blanc de Blancs rrp £80 (1,000 bottles); This Septered Isle rrp £40 (3,000 bottles) and The Red Miller rrp £40 (5,000 bottles) are available from UK distributor Liberty Wines or direct from Hush Heath Estate.

The winemakers at Hush Heath (left to right): Fergus Elias, Victoria Ash, Owen Elias

Meanwhile, last week db witnessed a major moment for the English wine industry as the first bottles of a Sir Ian Botham-backed rosé from Hush Heath Estate in Kent were labelled and readied for Tesco.

The listing in the UK’s largest supermarket chain is a major moment for the English wine industry as it gives national distribution to a still rosé – which, db believes, is a first.

The still rosé is made from a blend of Champagne grapes Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay, along with hybrid red grape Regner, all of which hail from the exceptional 2018 harvest in England.

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