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Balfour Brut Rosé: 20 years at the vanguard of English sparkling wine

Founded in 2002, Balfour Winery in Kent recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary with a vertical tasting of its signature Brut Rosé going back to the inaugural 2004 vintage; so, what do these revolutionary pink fizzes from this English trailblazer taste like today?

Spring was in the air as we walked through bluebell-covered, ancient oak woodland deep in the heart of the Kent countryside. Richard Balfour-Lynn pointed at the bramble which had grown on patches of land where old trees had fallen, allowing sunshine to filter through. ‘That’s the natural cycle, here,’ he said.

Scroll down for tasting notes and scores of 12 Balfour Brut Rosé wines

Just moments ago, we were in the state-of-the-art winery of Balfour, Hush Heath Estate. Its visitor centre-come-restaurant is also a showroom of the proprietors’ art collection, which ranges from a four-piece set of ancient Chinese landscape paintings to a funky, scarlet fibreglass sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi, iPod in hand.

Balfour Winery’s bluebell-covered ancient oak woodland.

The story of Balfour

The Balfour Brut Rosé vertical tasting.

Tasted nearly two decades later, the inaugural 2004 vintage was vivid testimony to how English sparkling rosé can age gracefully.

Its razor-sharp acidity shines through a full-on flavour profile developed in bottle, featuring bruised apple, savoury brioche, burnt sugar, zingy orange peel and a silky layer of caramel on the palate, followed by a long, lightly spiced finish.

Equally impressive was the 2005 vintage which won a Regional Trophy at the 2009 Decanter World Wine Awards. The tasting note from the judges then recorded its ‘delicate perfume of fresh strawberry, quince and blossom; crisply elegant with a prominent mousse’.

While the fresh red fruit characters may have faded today, the wine has developed a savoury edge of salted nuts and mushrooms, in addition to layers of oxidised fruits, and the vibrancy on the attack still lives.

A wealth of autolytic characters was the dominant theme of the cork-aged 2008 vintage. The 2011 was more sweet-spiced, with cinnamon-dusted apple pie on the nose and a lingering, nutty finish. 2014, meanwhile, displayed a honeyed, biscuity nose and ripe fruits on the palate.

Red fruit characters became more apparent in the 2018 vintage, the youngest release of Balfour Brut Rosé. Born in a vintage praised as one of the best for English wines in the modern era, the 2018 is slightly lower in acidity (7g/l) and has a higher proportion of Pinot Meunier (30%) than the estate’s average.

The 2018 is already approachable with its floral summer berries and honeyed yellow fruits on the palate. Its bright green-fruit acidity, however, suggests that it has a promising journey ahead, just like its predecessors.

Balfour Brut Rosé: 2004 to 2018

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