Balfour Winery of Kent

Balfour Winery is run by father and son team, Owen and Fergus Elias. Based in Kent, England, they produce both sparkling and still wines.

Balfour now has a winery to match their 400 acre estate, built in 2010 and extended in 2018. They enjoyed a huge influx of visitors from the ‘staycation’ effect of lockdown, with over 1,000 people through the door one weekend in June 2021.

Balfour’s annual production of between 300,000 and 400,000 bottles already makes them one of the bigger English producers, but they will eventually produce between 500,000 and 750,000 bottles.

Balfour’s own vineyards are supplemented with fruit from growers on long-term contracts. Around three quarters of their wines are sparkling, but they are confident that they are among the leading producers of still wines, including several of the regular and one-off cuvées tasted below.

Those familiar with their wines might notice a name change too, or rather, a clarification: Balfour is based on the Hush Heath Estate, the labels formerly branded as ‘Balfour Hush Heath Estate’. Now the name has been simplified to ‘Balfour Winery’, while Hush Heath of course remains their home farm and vineyard.

The Winemaking

Owen Elias declares that at one time he had “no interest” in using oak for his wines: “There were barrels available, but I never used them.” Now they have around 30 barrels, all bought new. Fergus is clearly more of a fan of barrel ageing in general, with the Suitcase Pinot for example, letting him flex his winemaker muscles a little more.

Viticulture is given huge prominence on the estate, the tags on the end of each row listing not only variety, but clone and rootstock information. They constantly monitor and plan both harvest and new vine plantings, according to what they learn from the performance of different clones and rootstocks on different soils. They find that clay favours their Pinots, while chalk suits the Chardonnay more.

The wines below were tasted between late 2021 and February 2023. Some come from their small batch programme of one-off releases, so may not be available when you read this article. The widest stock of currently available wines can be found at

Sparkling Wines

(2023) The blend here is predominantly Pinot Nor, with 25% Pinot Meunier. The base wine does not go through malolactic fermentation, so it is a sharply focused style, though a dosage of 12g/l softens the character in the mouth. An intitial citrus and apple brightness mellows into a red fruit character on the palate, the richness of the mousse also adding breadth. Tart berry acidity nips at the finish, and brings the wine to a crisp but elegant point. This can be had for as little as £33 if buying by the half dozen, but is generally priced in the high £30s, low £40s.
(2023) This was a tank sample - not a disgorged, finished wine, so had received no dosage. It has not been released at time of writing. It's a very different blend from the 2018, made from 98% Pinot Meunier and with 15% French oak barrel fermentation for the base wine. Very citrussy, with a tangerine brightness, and decisive acidity. A lovely line of saline acidity and the most subtle support from the barrel. Very promising. Note the 2018 is the vintage on sale at time of writing.

Still Wines

(2021) The name is a pun on 'sept', the French word for seven, as all seven of Champagne's permitted grape varieties are used: it's a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier, Pinot Gris, Arbanne and Pinot Meunier. Made in stainless steel, but with six months batonnage, it's one of those wines which you would swear had been barrel fermented and aged: the nose is creamy with buttery and almond tones, beneath citrus and golden apple, quite firm and not too showy. In the mouth the wine immediately tightens up, a flowing citrus zest character and more of that dry, crab apple bite of acidity. Stockist below has the wine for £33 if bought by the half dozen, others in the high £30s to low £40s.
(2023) While 'This Septered Isle' used all seven of the permitted grapes of Champagne to make a dry white wine, here only the five white varieties are employed: 90% is Chardonnay, along with Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier, Pinot Gris and Arbanne.  The wine spent nine months in French oak barrels, on the lees. The nose has a gentle almond creaminess, a little touch of Jack Daniels character in the background, golden delicious apples too. In the mouth this is etched by a crisp white fruit acidity, the English orchard fruit of the mid-palate just teasing towards a peachier ripeness. The finished has a Seville orange tang, and is bolstered by some buttery oak.
(2022) Beware the small print here, as the very dark glass disguises the fact that this is in fact a delicate rosé, not a red, with a fascinating winemaking story: fermented with Rioja yeast and aged in French and American barriques for three months. There's a hessian and herbs, savoury note to the aromas, but also vanilla over raspberry. It's undeniably complex, my mind also going to charcuterie, umami characters. In the mouth a lot of intense fruit sweetness and ripeness, but the grapefruity, lemon-pithy bite of the acidity and that dry redcurrant fruit that underpins the wine gives loads of gastronomic appeal. Balfour suggest matching to strong cheeses, which would be an interesting experiment. Don't serve this too cold; treat it more like a red wine.
(2022) Made from Burgundian clones of Pinot Noir, light oaking in French and American barrels followed whole bunch fermentation. A nice pale-  to medium colour, fragrant and gentle raspberry and a touch of woodland truffle are appealing. In the mouth there's some spice, reminiscent of clove maybe, and a hessian-dry palate, the subtle and savoury fruit staying light and elegant into a finish etched by keen raspberry acidity.
(2022) Feather-light Pinot Noir from Hush Heath estate, the 'Suitcase' of the name referring to the clones used - allegedly once smuggled from Romanée-Conti into the USA in a suitcase. Pale in colour, there's a fair bit of herbal, even flinty character here, tomato leaf and red fruit. On the palate it turns very soft, with sweet fruit but a light-bodied texture. The cherry, raspberry and delicate floral tones of the wine give it plenty of charm, but there is a little rasp of tart acidity as well as some briary tannins to give firmness too.
(2022) This special limited edition comes from a single vineyard, the fruit selected specifically for structure and concentration. After extended French oak maturation it was bottled without fining or filtration. There is a dark core to the colour, but still a translucent, broad rim. There's a very classy graphite and cool earthiness, then compact, quite wiry and muscular black fruit on the nose. In the mouth this has the grip and concentration as promised. Firm black cherry is polished by the oak and firm, fine-grained tannins, and again black cherry skin acidity. Lively and should cellar well for 5 to 8 years at least. Available from at time of review.

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