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Botham and Tesco back English rosé wine

the drinks business witnessed a major moment for the English wine industry yesterday as the first bottles of a Sir Ian Botham-backed rosé from Hush Heath Estate in Kent were labelled and readied for Tesco.

Due to go into the UK’s largest supermarket in November this year, the rosé is the first product to gain a major national listing under the Botham & Balfour brand, which – as first revealed by db back in July – is a new offering from the world famous British cricketer, having selected Hush Heath as his partner for an English wine, a Kent-based estate founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Richard Balfour-Lynn.

Encouraging Botham to select Hush Heath Estate was not just the quality of the wines, but also the offer of a collaborative approach to the winemaking and promotion by the property’s owner, Balfour-Lynn – hence the range of wines will carry both partners names on the label.

The range currently comprises a Brut NV pink sparkling wine and a still rosé, both from the brilliant 2018 vintage, and Tesco has chosen to carry, on an exclusive basis, the still rosé (Hush Heath Estate currently provides the wines for Tesco Finest English White and Sparkling Wine).

The listing in the UK’s largest supermarket chain is a major moment for the English wine industry as it gives national distribution to a still rosé – which, db believes, is a first.

Also significant is the backing by Botham for a still English wine, having told db back in 2017, that he planned to put his name to a sparkling wine.

However, having tried the still rosé at Hush Heath earlier this year, he was amazed by the quality, admitting that both he and his wife had assumed it was a pink wine from Provence.

Speaking to db in an exclusive interview at Hush Heath yesterday, Botham said that he was happy to launch the still rosé, along with a pink sparkling wine, because he was so impressed by the quality of the estate’s vineyards, winery, and the resulting wines – still and sparkling.

“I am putting my name to this because the quality is there, and I have been promised that it will be maintained,” he told db.

Continuing, speaking more generally about the development of English sparkling and still wine, he said, “It is just exciting to be part of the trip.”

The still rosé is made from a blend of Champagne grapes Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay, along with hybrid red grape Regner, which Balfour-Lynn told db works best as a rosé, bringing plenty of red berry aromas.

Hailing from the unusually good harvest last year, Balfour-Lynn said that the Botham & Balfour pink wine was “certainly the best rosé we’ve ever made,” and described it as having “the natural pretty colour of an apricot English rose,” while stressing that the wine is “fresh and very clean on the nose”.

He also told db that “the product has to be great to match the celebrity,” speaking of the partnership with Botham, adding, “our confidence in each other lies in the fact that the product matches the personality – that is the bottom line.”

Representing the range of wines from Sir Ian Botham, and the new English wine partnership with Balfour-Lynn, is Benchmark Drinks.

L-R: Jason Godley, BWS category director for Tesco, Ian Botham, Hush Heath Estate owner Richard Balfour-Lynn

Founder and CEO of the business, Paul Schaafsma told db that the launch of the Botham & Botham brand and the Tesco listing represented a big step forward for English wine, pointing out that “the familiarity of Botham”, coupled with the high-quality reputation of Hush Heath Estate would encourage more people to try English wine, who perhaps were “a bit scared before”.

Not only does the Botham & Balfour brand make English wine “more accessible” according to Schaafsma, but the “support of Tesco has created an opportunity, and that has got to be good for English sparkling wine.”

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