The English sparkling wine revolution is not about trying to match the quality of champagne. It’s about blowing it out of the water. Leading the offensive is the Nyetimber Estate in West Chiltington, West Sussex, which has been producing England’s finest sparkling wine for 30 years.
Its recipe for success? An uncompromising approach to selecting the location of its vineyards, only using the very best plots available to grow grapes. Currently the producer has 220 hectares of vines, spread across eight vineyards – five in West Sussex, two in Hampshire and one in Kent – each of which has had to meet the most exacting criteria, including soil type, microclimate and aspect.
Southern England has ideal conditions for grape production; the chalk seam that runs under the lee of the South Downs is the very same that supplies Champagne, providing the desired greensand and chalk soil. The sites are also sheltered from the coastal winds, creating a climate that allows the grapes to ripen slowly to achieve the best possible acidity to produce complex wines.
To ensure quality, Nyetimber’s wines, most importantly, are only made from estate-grown grapes based on the champagne ‘holy trinity’: pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay.
Their signature Classic Cuvee MV masterfully blends these grapes using the traditional method and is best appreciated as an apéritif. A lovely pale gold with gentle, fine bubbles, this elegant sparkling wine won a Gold medal at the 2017 International Wine and Spirit Competition.
But, with five different styles to choose from, there is something to suit all tastes and occasions. Nyetimber Demi-Sec MV is a delicately effervescent wine with aromas of pure lemon, honey tones and a hint of tangerine – the perfect partner for a fruity dessert. And where would you be on a special occasion without a bottle of their sunset pink Rosé or the extra special Tillington 2010, which is wonderfully toasty and intense.
It takes a particular kind of vision to produce wines of this quality. ‘I don’t think in years but in generations,’ says Eric Heerema, the owner and chief executive.
It is his dedication and ability to conceive the long-term picture that has driven the business to rival even the most revered champagne houses. And while, in the wine industry, 30 years might sound like a short time, the estate has its own rich and colourful history dating back to the Domesday Book in 1086. It’s most notable for the fact that Henry VIII gifted the manor to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, following the annulment of their marriage in 1540. And while nearly a thousand years has passed since their name was first coined as Nitimbreha’ (likely referring to a newly timbered house or small timber plantation), it is the developments of the past three decades that will leave the longest lasting impression.
NYETIMBER West Chiltington, West Sussex RH20 2HH +44 (0)1798 813989