This week, Balfour Winery on Hush Heath Estate in the heart of the Weald of Kent, unveils its first-ever Blanc de Noirs – a skilful blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from its top sites and terroirs, created by the father and son winemaking team, Owen and Fergus Elias.
This latest addition, from the high quality and abundant 2018 vintage, will take its place in Balfour’s Vintage Collection, alongside the iconic Balfour Brut Rose 2017 and the Balfour Blanc de Blancs 2014.
Keys to the Balfour winemaking philosophy are the selection of special clones, planting by aspect and terroir, and hand-picking plot by plot. This precision harvesting and small-batch winemaking enables the team to identify individual parcels as stand-alone wines or to add complexity to overall blends. The Blanc de Noirs 2018 is no stranger to this approach.
Blending 75% vibrant Pinot Noir with 25% delicate Pinot Meunier, all grown on a combination of rich clay and Kentish ragstone (a hard limestone exclusive to the county) has resulted in a wine ‘of yin and yang’, in Fergus Elias’ words. “The traditional ripe Blanc de Noirs flavours of red apple and blackcurrant combine with the linear citrus and oyster shell characteristics so often found in our vintage wines” he explains.
The backbone of the Blanc de Noirs 2018 is the Foxridge vineyard, located at the highest point of the Estate above Hush Heath Manor. Often seen as the Estate’s ‘hidden secret’, it produces lusciously ripe Pinots that have also been selected for Luke’s Pinot Noir and the successful Suitcase Pinot Noir, part of the Balfour Winemaker Collection.
Owen Elias, who planted the site in 2010 with some very unusual clones, continues: “We had to wait a long time until conditions were right to perfect a Blancs de Noirs blend. In 2018 that chance arrived. The weather was hot and sunny from spring to harvest, the quantity was unheard of, and the quality superb. That was the year that English wine came of age – and our Balfour Blanc de Noirs with it.”
The brand-new Balfour Blanc de Noirs 2018, in its Canelle bottle with a striking steel grey and dark red label, will be a limited-edition wine, disgorged in 500 bottle batches, and retailing at £35 from Balfour Winery.