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Balfour-Lynn: No real future for English still wine

There is little future for English still wine beyond its curiosity value, renowned English sparkling producer Richard Balfour-Lynn has said.

Speaking at the opening of his new winery building at Hush Heath near Marden in Kent earlier this week, Balfour-Lynn told Decanter.com the English climate simply would not allow the consistent ripening of grapes for still wines.

Moreover, it would be impossible to compete with New World producers.

‘Do I believe we should focus on still wines? Probably not. There are some great still wines made all over the world and we’d struggle to make a good red.

‘In the odd year we might make a small amount but it will always be a curiosity. It’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to make a consistent brand.’

He conceded that there were some ‘good whites around’ particularly from the Bacchus and Ortega grapes, but again, ‘in terms of competing with a Chilean or a South African, it will remain a minor interest.’

Balfour-Lynn, who owns the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin groups, said that as English wine became more popular there was a danger of a ‘bandwagon effect’ lowering standards.

‘The thing I worry about is the amount of grapes being planted by a lot of enthusiastic people, who would be surprised by just how much work is involved in producing quality grapes.’

It is essential, he said, to maintain quality and exclusivity. Selling to the supermarkets – ‘where you suddenly get involved in price cutting and promotions’ – would be another sure way to erode quality as ‘you would have to cut corners to keep commercially viable.’

As well as opening his new winery – built with capacity for 100,000 bottles – Balfour-Lynn is also celebrating British Airways announcement that it will be serving the Balfour Brut Rosé 2007 in its first class cabins.

Hush Heath’stotal production is currently 30,000 bottles. From the 2010 vintage they will also produce a tiny amount of still Chardonnay, winemaker Owen Elias said.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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