The owner of luxury London department store Liberty has snapped up a parcel of land in Kent with a view to producing pink sparkling wine.

Richard Balfour-Lynn, whose company owns the Malmaison chain of boutique hotels as well as Liberty, recently bought the 160ha Hush Heath Estate, near Marden. He has planted two hectares to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

‘Traditional English wine is medium dry or sweet, and uses a lot of German grapes,’ he told decanter.com, ‘but I thought it would be interesting to grow something a bit different. It’s difficult to do a good English red so I decided to go for a sparkling wine. People associate them with good times, and they think pink sparklies are even more special.’

Balfour-Lynn points out that the soil profile in the area is similar to that of much of Champagne, and is confident that the area’s micro-climate will provide enough heat for the grapes to ripen thoroughly.

In aiming to produce rosé sparkling wine, Balfour-Lynn is following in the footsteps of two English trailblazers, Chapel Down and Ridge View, and he has been encouraged by their winemakers. Stephen Skelton, an authority on English wines and viticulture, has also been advising him.

‘I only planted the vines eight weeks ago,’ he said. ‘It will take three years before they are ready to harvest, then there’s another two years bottle maturation to go before I will really know whether my gamble has paid off. If it’s successful in terms of quality, I plan to extend the vineyards.’

Written by Natasha Hughes5 July 2002