Nyetimber: Winery of the Year Great Britain 2021

Top Wineries of Great Britain 2021 Feature Week

If a Champagne grower were to make its fizz from 260 hectares of its own with no outside source of supply, it would be considered humongous, even in the context of Champagne.

From the start, its first fizz, the 1992 Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs, sparked debate following a blind tasting in Champagne as to whether it was from Champagne’s Côte des Blancs or the Aube.

For an English estate to do so in a postage stamp size industry, by comparison, is remarkable in itself. But the real achievement of Nyetimber is that it has expanded the range, improved the quality and burnished the reputation of the brand in the 31 years since the initial 16 hectares of chardonnay and pinot noir were planted by the Chicagoan couple, Stuart and Sandy Moss. So much so that few would argue that Nyetimber is not primus inter pares, first among equals, in English sparkling wine.

From the start, its first fizz, the 1992 Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs, sparked debate following a blind tasting in Champagne as to whether it was from Champagne’s Côte des Blancs or the Aube. The same wine won the English Wine Trophy, but despite this flying start with the heavens raining down awards on the West Sussex property, like, well, British rain, it hasn’t all been plain sailing.

Following the Moss’s retirement in 2001, the estate was bought by Nichola and Andy Hill, the latter best known for composing the 1981 charts hit and Eurovision winner ‘Making Your Mind Up’ for the Abba wannabe pop group, Bucks Fizz. Low yields and high stocks with no marketing plan, culminating in the Hills’ divorce, led to Nyetimber’s acquisition by the Dutch entrepreneur, Eric Heerema, in 2006 for GBP £7.4 million, a bargain in hindsight.

The arrival of the astute Heerema triggered the next chapter in the Nyetimber story thanks to a businesslike approach that saw an additional expansion of the vineyards holdings to more than 100 hectares over the next two years.

Equally important for Nyetimber’s future, in 2007 Heerema took on the talented Canadian wife and husband winemaking duo, Cherie Spriggs and Brad Greatrix, who had met as undergraduates at the University of British Columbia.

Since the beginning of Heerema’s ownership, the vineyards have expanded to 260 hectares, split across West Sussex, Hampshire and Kent, including the Tillington Vineyard, the source of Nyetimber’s superb single vineyard fizz thanks to the exceptional quality of its pinot noir.

The six West Sussex vineyards are on greensand, the three sites in Kent and two in Hampshire are on chalk in an overall split of nearly half planted to chardonnay, a third to pinot noir and the balance to meunier. Both types of soil are free-draining and while chalk is often talked about as the Holy Grail for sparkling wine thanks to its role in Champagne, broadly speaking, Cherie and Brad feel that the greensand emphasises the fruit, the chalk in Hampshire a floral purity, with ripeness and finesse from Kent, which is slightly warmer.

Once the wines from the newer chalk sites come fully on stream, the many different vineyard sources, with their varying soil compositions, differing altitudes and south-facing aspects, will give them the variety of blending options they’ll need from 100 or so base wines.

Since the arrival of Cherie and Brad, a new winery and pressing station have also been built. The battery of six Coquard PAI presses doesn’t just look spectacular but its gentle pressing regime ensures high-quality juices pressed from 15-kilo crates after separation by parcel, grape variety and clone before gravity flow into settling tanks and transport to Nyetimber’s unlovely Crawley winery.

Since the beginning of Heerema’s ownership, the vineyards have expanded to 260 hectares, split across West Sussex, Hampshire and Kent

After the first fermentation, when oak is used sparingly, meticulous blending is followed by the second fermentation in bottle, and, crucially, long ageing on the lees, three years for the Classic Cuvée, five years for the Blanc de Blancs and Prestige Cuvée 1086 Rosé, six to seven years for the Prestige Cuvée 1086 White.

The multi-vintage Classic Cuvée sets the scene with hints of lemon and light toast and mouthwateringly tangy flavours, while the 2014 Blanc de Blancs shows an expressive, biscuity quality with a creamy-textured mousse that’s deliciously complex and harmonious in Côte des Blancs-like style. In stylistic contrast, the pinot-noir dominated 2013 Tillington Single Vineyard shows sumptuous hints of butterscotch and popcorn à la champagne with a lovely purity of apple fruit floating on a richly toasty mousse of bubbles.

Hard as that act is to follow, the 2010 Nyetimber Prestige Cuvée 1086 White, a blend of 45% chardonnay, 44% pinot noir and 11% meunier, achieves that feat thanks to its substantial depth of subtle autolytic complexity and sumptuously biscuity intensely creamy mousse with underyling notes of caramel and vanilla, finishing stylishly dry. Although not in this tasting, the 2010 Nyetimber Prestige Cuvée Rosé 1086, a complex, toasty blend of 75% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay, is a worthy counterpart to the white.

Priced at a similar level to Champagne’s prestige cuvées, the dynamic duo would not disgrace itself at Champagne’s top table of the likes of Bollinger La Grande Année or Dom Ruinart Rosé. For all the reasons we’ve mentioned, not least the tasting of its consistently fine fizz, Nyetimber is Winery of the Year 2021 in The Real Review Top Wineries of Great Britain 2021.


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