As has been widely chronicled, Nyetimber is the largest, and best known English sparkling wine producer, and their growth and quality has risen the profile of English fizz around the world. Goode has followed their journey on Wine Anorak, with articles in 2020, 2019, and 2015.
The story has all the elements of a fairy tale, beginning with the Sussex property itself, settled more than 1000 years ago. When the Doomsday Book was published in 1086, after William the Conqueror’s great survey of estates, the valley and current winery site was named Nitimbreha (Nee Timber Ha), most likely referencing a small timber plantation, or newly timbered houses. There is a half-timbered manor home remaining today, dating back to the Saxon times.
Fast-forward 900 years, to 1986, when Americans Stuart and Sandy Moss bought the 49-hectare Nyetimber estate, in the village of West Chiltington, with an aim to make sparkling wines. They established the original vineyard in 1988, planting Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier on the site’s greensand soils. This was a fledgling period for ESW, when most people didn’t believe grapes would ripen, or root well in the chilly English environs, but with the consulting assistance of Champenois Jean-Manuel Jacquinot, the first vintages were released, to surprising acclaim. The Moss’ decided to return to the States in the early 2000s, and Dutch entrepreneur Eric Heerema, already owning a small vineyard a few miles away, purchased the property in 2006, for £7.4 million in 2006. The wine-passionate Heerema decided to devote himself to restoring and growing the vineyards and investing in Nyetimber’s future, but needed to find the right team.
Meanwhile, a world away, young Canadian winemaking couple Cherie Spriggs and husband Brad Greatrix were looking for their dream wine job. Cherie’s father is English born, and Cherie has had an English passport since childhood. On one visit to England, her father brought the couple back a sparkling wine, from Nyetimber’s first vintages. Brad and Cherie had little expectations for the wine, but were really surprised when they finally cracked it. When Brad asked Cherie what her dream job would be, “without cracking a beat, she said she wanted to make sparkling wine in England”. They sent an email to email@example.com, entirely speculative and vague. The email reached Eric and he responded that he needed 2 people now, so send along your CVs. In under 3 weeks, Cherie and Brad had started as winemakers at Nyetimber. It was a fortuitous union, with the trio’s visions for quality matched. In 2018, Cherie was awarded Sparkling Winemaker of the Year by the International Wine Challenge, the only person outside of Champagne to be honoured as such, and the first woman.
That backed up a lot of beliefs they had. To hear Brad explain it, “The South of England has tremendous potential, and really is the most exciting place to be producing traditional method sparkling wine.”
Over time they have expanded the estate to 350 hectares (260 hectares under vine), spread across 11 sites in Hampshire, West Sussex, and Kent. They work exclusively with estate owned fruit, with vineyard sites selected on soils, aspect (south facing slopes), and shelter from prevailing south coast winds. They seek out sites on greensand (sedimentary soil, one level older than chalk) and chalk. The mineral rich and free-draining soils allow for proper drainage in England’s damp climate.
Along with Pinot Meunier, they’re working with 15ish clones each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and remain dedicated solely to traditional method fizz. The wines are mostly fermented in stainless, with 2-3% fermented in older oak, and go through full MLF. Every parcel is harvested and fermented separately, with up to 100 different base wines at their disposal for blending.
Nyetimber is founding members of Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB), regulating inputs and land stewardship. They’ve trialled organics and biodynamics, converting 7 hectares to organics, but over several years, their results failed taste tests. Biodynamics have been more promising in ongoing trials.
The winery has produced approximately 1 million bottles over the past 4 vintages. Each bottle has a unique identifier code that you can enter on their website, providing full technical details on the wine.
2021 marked the 15th vintage for Brad and Cherie at Nyetimber, and the 30th vintage overall for the winery. Goode and I had a chance to catch up recently with current releases, tasting individually.
Notes from Treve Ring (TR) and Jamie Goode (JG)
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée MV
This cuvée makes up 80% of production, typically sourcing fruit from all their vineyards. Typically Chardonnay-led, this bottle blended 60/27/13 Chardonnay / Pinot Noir / Pinot Meunier, with 39 months on lees. It was based on 2017 (66%) with reserves from 2015, 2014, and 2013. It was disgorged late July 2021, with 10 g/L. Tight, racy, lemon-laced and filigreed, white and red cherry are bedded with a great chalky depth, and lingering with fine chalky salinity. Great structure, fantastic texture in this complete wine. 93/100 (TR)
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2010 England (magnum)
51% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Meunier, disgorged 2017. From a cool vintage that was the penultimate vintage of the classic cuvée as a single-year wine. Very fine, expressive toasty nose is bready with some citrus character. The palate is very fine and toasty with citrus and cherry. It’s crystalline, delicate and fine, and one of the best English sparkling wines I’ve tasted. 95/100 (£85) (JG)
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2014
The BdB is Only considered when the Classic Cuvée is exactly what they want. Only then they will consider if a vintage wine is appropriate. This was bottled in March 2015, and disgorged March 2020, with 9.5 g/L. 2014 is a generous vintage, and this wine reflects that, gently expansive on the palate, with a deep chalk undercurrent topped with lemon pith and peel, green apple, and lees. The structured, textural palate lingers with salinity. 92/100 (TR)
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2014 England
This is 100% Chardonnay, 83% from Hampshire chalk and 17% from Sussex greensand. 2.8% oak maturation, 9.5 g/l dosage. Disgorged late 2019. This is pure and linear, with the dosage adding some texture. Very fine and expressive with lovely textured pear and green apple fruit, and a touch of peachy richness. Lovely mineral line, too. 94/100 (£46) (JG)
Nyetimber Tillington Single Vineyard 2013
This is a striking 35 hectare site in West Sussex, and their only single vineyard wine, produced in 2009, 2010, and 2013. This niche wine makes up less than 1% of production, and this vintage blended 76% Pinot Noir, 24% Chardonnay (clone 95), with 9.7 g/L, disgorged June 2018. Oxidative and toasty, with red fruit, floral cherry, wild raspberry, cherry meringue and red currant ruling the fuller, fleshy palate. 90/100 (TR)
Nyetimber Tillington Single Vineyard 2014
Now the 4th Tillington, this newly released edition features 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay, disgorged in September 2020 with 8.5 g/L. The red cherry is at the fore, driving wild raspberry, lemon peel, over a textured base of deep chalk. Vibrant, shimmering acidity rings throughout, and positively hums along the lengthy finish. Very impressive now, and with time ahead. 92/100 (TR)
Nyetimber Tillington Single Vineyard 2014 Sussex, England
12% alcohol. 78% Pinot Noir and 22% Chardonnay from a site with greensand soils in Sussex. This is beautifully concentrated and precise with aromas of toast, honey, cherry, pear and lime melding together with a sense of harmony. The palate has some innate richness, with peach, pear and bright citrus as well as more of the honey, toast and spice notes, as well as a touch of nougat, and then a long, linear finish. This is so impressive. 94/100 (JG)
Nyetimber Rosé MV
2007 was their first rosé release. This bottle blends 58% Pinot Noir with 42% Chardonnay, with red wine making up 15% of the final blend. It was primarily from the 2019 vintage (91%) with reserves from 2016, 2015, 2014. My bottle was disgorged in June 2021 after 23 months on lees, and with 10 g/L. The beautiful salmon hue comes from up to 12 days on skins (varying by year). Lightly oxidatitve red apple, wild raspberry and fleshy cherry is held by a tight, zippy framework, leaving the palate buzzing with vibrancy. There’s a lovely raspy chalky salinity on the bright finish. Quite smart. 91/100 (TR)
1086 Prestige Cuvée 2010
As the name implies, this is their top cuvée, borne out of the idea of bottling the best of the best, and not made every year. This blends 45% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, 11% Pinot Meunier, with just under 7 years on lees, disgorged in February 2019 with 9.7 g/L. This powerful wine is deeply chalky, with incredible texture weaving lemon pith, green apple, meringue, nougat across the structured palate. There’s a lovely lively freshness here countering the chalky depth, finishing with a lingering hum on the palate. Stunning now, and with time ahead. 94/100 (TR)
Nyetimber 1086 Prestige Cuvée 2010 England
This is the second vintage of this prestige cuvée, which is a blend of 45% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir and 11% Pinot Meunier. 8 years on the lees, 9.5 g/litre dosage. This is complex, taut but accessible with pear, peach and subtle toast and nuts. Really refined with great precision and also depth. Real finesse. 95/100 (£150) (JG)
1086 Rosé Prestige Cuvée 2010
This premium cuvée is not made every year, but 2010 was an amazing year for them and they released both 1086s, referencing the Doomsday Book publishing date. This blends 75% Pinot Noir with 25% Chardonnay, with 7.5 years on lees before disgorgement December 2018 with 8g/L. This is so finessed and complete, with wild strawberry, wild raspberry, wild cherry on a dense meringue base, perfumed with strawberry kisses, with a lick of salted red licorice on the finish. There is a hint of oxidation reflecting its age, but remains drinking beautifully now. 93/100 (TR)
Nyetimber 1086 Rosé Prestige Cuvee 2010 England
This is 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, with 19% red wine. Dosage is 8 g/litre. Full pink/orange colour. Complex and broad with cherry, strawberry and some herbal hints, as well as a touch of raspberry. Lovely weight here. This has a tapering, spicy finish and is really serious. 94/100 (£175) (JG)
Cuvée Chérie Demi-Sec NV
This demi-sec launched in 2012, and was the first of its kind in England. It was rebranded Cuvée Chérie in 2019. This Chardonnay sparkler was based on 2014, with 28% reserves from 2011. It spent 6 years on lees, and was disgorged June 2021 with 38 g/L RS. Very gentle sweetness, this carries light apricot, white peach, lemon pith, white blossoms along a silken palate, finishing with a snappy, saline finish. Very pretty, and one that would work well with fragrant Asian cuisine. 92/100 (TR)
Nyetimber Cuvée Cherie NV England
This is a demi-sec with 38 g/l residual sugar. The base wine is 2014. Powerful with good concentration, lovely texture and nice balance. The sweetness and acidity are nicely balanced. Grapey and rich, this is quite serious. 92/100 (£38) (JG)
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