If a decade ago someone had told you that an English sparkling wine would soon be surpassing French champagnes at blind tastings, you would probably have laughed them out of the room. But this is what Nyetimber is doing. They have impressed connoisseurs the world over, creating top-notch sparkling wines using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes – all grown across Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. At this year’s International Wine Challenge, no fewer than three of its wines were awarded gold medals.
Nyetimber’s success has its roots in an English estate which is first mentioned in the Domesday Book (where the Anglo-Saxon name ‘Nitimbreha’, meaning newly-timbered house, is first recorded) and that once belonged to Anne of Cleves – it was given to her by Henry VIII as part of their marriage annulment.
The vineyards’ topography, with their greensand or chalky soils, and gentle English sunshine, is ideal for sparkling wine grapes but it took an expert eye to spot this potential. The first vines had been planted at Nyetimber in 1988, but it was Eric Heerema who saw all the makings of a world-class estate. He had always dreamed of owning a vineyard and in 2006 he bought the estate. ‘I don’t think in years, I think in generations,’ he says, and it is this quality which has secured Nyetimber’s reputation as one of the finest producers of sparkling wines in the world.
Heerema’s vision is matched by expertise through his partnership with the renowned winemakers Cherie Spriggs and Brad Greatrix. The couple first tasted Nyetimber when they were given a bottle as a present by Cherie’s parents. They recognised it straight away as something special. Now Cherie is Head Winemaker at Nyetimber, and along with fellow Winemaker and husband Brad, she decides everything from the time of harvest to the grape pressing and vinification.
So it is that Nyetimber has gone from being a Sussex secret to a standard bearer for English sparkling wine around the world. It is already sold in 19 countries, and the estate’s reputation is set to grow: this summer saw Nyetimber become the Official Sparkling Wine Partner to Cowdray Park Polo Club. They have also opened a number of summer terraces across the United Kingdom; at the Rosewood London hotel from May, on Selfridges rooftop during June, and at Harvey Nichols Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester from July.
At the Rosewood London, Nyetimber has created a secret garden in the hotel’s Edwardian courtyard, with floral archways and a wrought iron gate, bringing the charm of the English countryside into the city.
Nyetimber will be helping to bring about some of the highlights of the British Season, sponsoring the Dorset Seafood Festival, Wilderness Festival and Glyndebourne Opera before launching their new partnership with the London Film Festival in October. Although generally not open to the public, the Nyetimber Estate will offer a glimpse behind its gates to the most ardent enthusiasts this summer with a series of Open Days during which visitors can enjoy an exclusive tour of the vineyards and a tutored wine tasting in the stunning 15th Century Medieval Barn.
As for the wine itself – that can be purchased via the Nyetimber website or from select stockists including Fortnum & Mason, Hedonism Wines, or Harrods.