Americans Stuart and Sandy Moss got Nyetimber off the ground as a wine estate when they planted the classic Champagne grapes of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier there in 1986. Many commentators thought they were taking too big a risk with ripening the chardonnay and pinot noir as pioneers of the variety in England, but their vision was to make the best English sparkling wine, and to compete with the biggest and the best from around the world, so nothing else would do.
Lofty as that vision was, they set about achieving it with a will and quickly earned Nyetimber a reputation for prize-winning excellence that has been built upon by their successors. After five years under the ownership of songwriter Andy Hill (remember ‘Making Your Mind Up’ by Bucks Fizz?) and his wife Nichola, Dutch businessman Eric Heerema bought the estate in 2006 with an ambitious plan not only to increase production but to do so without sacrificing any of the quality. He expanded the vineyard area from 16 to 150 hectares, a whopping increase and a statement of intent. It was time, he felt, to see the estate achieve its full potential.
He quickly, and wisely, appointed Canadian-born winemakers Cherie Spriggs and Brad Greatrix to the team and they have spearheaded Nyetimber’s ascent to international recognition and award after award. In 2009 Nyetimber hit the headlines when the 2003 Classic Cuvée won the top award at the Sparkling Wine World Championships that saw them competing with some famous Champagne houses.
Nyetimber’s vineyards are spread Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, comprising eight sites on greensand or chalk soils on gentle slopes, all south facing to ensure maximum exposure to the sun throughout the day and all perfect for growing grapes for sparkling wine. All the grapes are hand harvested, parcel by parcel so that Cherie can understand the unique flavours and characteristics of each patch and assess what each can add to the broad palette of wines that the winemaking team can use to create each cuvée.
In 2009 Nyetimber introduced the single-vineyard Tillington cuvée, with a limited edition run and individually numbered bottles. Pinot noir dominates the blend thanks to the superb quality of that grape from the Tillington vineyard. It is a bubby that bears stylistic comparison with Bollinger.
Work in the vineyards is carried out with sustainability at the forefront of their thinking, with natural habitats abounding around the estate (30% of the land is not vineyard), sheep used to keep the grass between the rows down rather than using machines, and a newly built winery powered by photo-voltaic cells and recycles energy from some of the winemaking processes. They are also working towards accreditation with LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) too.
Six cuvées are made at Nyetimber. The flagship Classic Cuvée leads the way, a single vintage wine until the 2010 vintage and so named because it is a blend of the classic Champagne varieties. Alongside it is the demi-sec Cuvée Chérie at 38g of sugar per litre, a red-fruited rosé, a 100% chardonnay Blanc de Blancs (the first style the estate ever released), the pinot noir-dominated Tillington and the 1086 Prestige Cuvée of wonderful richness and a name that harks back to the first mention of the Nyetimber estate in the Domesday Book. All are world-class wines.
Nyetimber is all about perfectionism, high quality, ambition and pushing boundaries. All this means that this is a sparkling wine house that is rivalling the best anywhere, making wines that are to be taken seriously and, most of all, enjoyed.
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