Vineyards and wineries abound in Kent, but few are operated by someone as charismatic and free from pretension as Richard Balfour Lynn. This man is a passed master in the art of hospitality, and understands that for all the pomp and circumstance present in the world of wine, its primary function is to facilitate a good time.
He may give floral (and fruity, nutty and leathery) oeno-lingo short shift, but there’s absolutely no doubt that Hush Heath produces wines worthy of overly expressive tasting notes.
‘I don’t care if it says cherry aromas,’ I flare at LB as we sup exceptional Balfour Sparkling 1503 Pinot Noir in the tasting room, ‘I spent my childhood summers surrounded by sun-warmed redcurrants and I know an SWR when I smell one!’ A bit more sniffing, sipping and definitely no spitting later, we settle on Cumberland sauce and a slightly-smoky rounded vanilla finish that hints at Christmas. Or it does in my opinion.
What is fact and not opinion is that Hush Heath wines are delicious. The cool local climate yields beautifully clean, acidic wines: including sparkling gems like Leslie’s Reserve NV, whose lemon-y tartness causes the mouth to pucker in pleasure and immediately require another sip; pale and interesting English roses; and that Pinot – light; fresh; truly unlike anything either of us have experienced and now want to experience daily.
We see the process in action on a tour of the state-of-the-art winery, our guide explaining every stage and occasionally talking in riddles (a technique which removes the sediment). Then, issued with a map and trusted not to get lost, we embark on an exploration of the 400-acre estate: tramping its vineyards, woods, and the orchard from whence Hush Heath’s Jake’s Cider emerges.
Along with The Tickled Trout slightly further afield, The Goudhurst Inn is one of Hush Heath’s two Kent-based pubs. With rooms on offer and a wine list beckoning, the only sensible option is to check in for the night and book a table for a decadent dinner.
Start with a flight of three ‘hero’ wines, then continue with a bottle or two of whatever you like the best alongside dishes from a menu of modern Brit pub classics – or perhaps a pizza from the clay oven. If you’re still thirsty when you head to bed, fear not: you’ll find a bottle of Hush Heath wine and a pair of glasses in your room.
Fuzzy heads might be a problem the following morning, but finding a cracking cooked breakfast won’t be. The Goudhurst’s might not cure a hangover, but it certainly makes it more bearable.
Make it real
Where: Hush Heath winery, Five Oak Lane, Staplehurst Kent TN12 0HT / The Goudhurst Inn, Cranbrook Road, Goudhurst, Kent TN17 1DX
Find out more: To visit the websites, click here for Hush Heath and here for The Goudhurst Inn