Honestly, I was a bit sceptical when deciding if a bottle of the Balfour Hush Heath Estate 2018 Red Miller Pinot Meunier was really worth a £40 splurge. For quite some time, I’ve been searching for a still, red English wine made from 100% vitis vinifera grapes, that is actually worth recommending to others. Well, I can honestly say that I think this 2018 Red Miller is one to get excited about. I’m not the only one who thinks that this is a great wine, as it is the first English still red wine to win not only one but three gold medals at the 2020 International Wine Challenge. So what’s all the fuss about?
The reason why English wines are mostly sparkling is because this style of wine needs to be made with grapes that are slightly less ripe, more acidic and lower in sugar. However, when making a still red wine in a cool-climate region, the grapes should ideally be be fully ripe with medium to medium high acidity levels and have a reasonable amount of sugar. 2018 was an exceptionally warm growing season which is ideal for ripening grapes, especially those destined for still winemaking. As a result, you’re probably thinking that some pretty incredible Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines could also be made that year. Not necessarily. Even though 2018 was warmer, the grape growing regions of the UK still face cool-climate conditions with influences from the ocean. As a result, these conditions are still not ideal to fully ripen Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes; however, Pinot Meunier ripens a bit earlier than both of these other varieties. So, during a warmer vintage, Pinot Meunier grapes stand a better chance of being able to reach their full ripening potential. As a result of this, Balfour Hush Heath Estate took advantage of a great growing season and bottled their Pinot Meunier as a still red wine.
In the glass, this is a lighter-bodied ruby red wine with ripe red fruit aromas. Pinot Meunier adds red fruit aromas to a Champagne blend and the power of its aromatics are evident when bottled as a single varietal still wine. Aromas of ripe red raspberry, strawberry and cherry caught my attention. It was almost like having a glass full of freshly picked summer berries. An added bonus were notes of spice, fresh herbs and smokey notes from oak ageing on a lengthy finish. This wine exemplifies how well Pinot Meunier can express itself as a still red UK wine under optimal growing conditions. I think that we will see more single varietal still red Pinot Meunier wines being sold in the coming years. Quite possibly, maybe this will become the signature still red wine of the UK. If that’s the case, I’m not complaining!
I would pair this with my Brioche, Fennel and Gruyere Gratin. I think the ripe red fruit aromas of the wine uplift the creamy indulgence of the cream sauce. Pinot Meunier is a light red wine which is going to enable the flavours of toasted brioche, sautéed fennel and nutty, cheesy Gruyere to shine through without competing for attention. Additionally, the herbaceous flavours within the wine complement the fresh thyme found within the gratin. Enjoy!
Producer: Balfour Hush Heath Estate
Grapes: Pinot Meunier
Colour: light ruby red
Aromas/Flavours: Red Raspberry, fresh strawberry, red cherry, dried herbs and subtle smokey cigar-like notes
Drinking Window: Drink now!