English sparkling wine estate Nyetimber in West Sussex is to release a single vineyard wine this year, modelled on the “clos” concept in Champagne.
Nyetimber’s winemaker Cherie Sprigs
Due for release in September, the inaugural 2009 vintage is a blend of 79% Pinot Noir and 21% Chardonnay from the estate’s 37.3-hectare Netherland vineyard.
Having toyed with the name The Netherland, as a tribute to Dutch owner Eric Heerema, winemaker Cherie Spirggs decided to call the wine Tillington, after the village where the vineyard is located, as the name had more of an English feel.
The decision to make the single vineyard sparkler came after Spriggs was blown away by the quality of the Pinot Noir grapes from the Netherland vineyard.
“I remember going around and picking some of the Pinot grapes from the vine and they stood out as being absolutely glorious,” Spriggs told the drinks business.
“The fruit there was so good that I wanted to do something with it in isolation as a real expression of place.
“We don’t make a blanc de noirs, so I liked the idea of a Pinot-dominant sparkler, but the 21% Chardonnay adds lovely freshness, elegance and acidity,” she added.
The estate hasn’t decided the final price, but it will be Nyetimber’s most expensive wine to date, though Spriggs is wary of the “prestige cuvée” tag.
“We wanted to do something in the clos model that really gives an expression of a place, and I think we’ve achieved that. It’s such a powerful wine,” she revealed.
Sales of Nyetimber Demi-Sec are strong
Meanwhile, sales are strong of Nyetimber Demi-Sec – the first of its kind in England, which was released last September due to demand.
“I originally made the demi-sec purely for wine dinners to have a the right wine to pair with dessert as the brut style really doesn’t work with sweet desserts,” Sprigg told db.
“I got so many requests for it that I decided to release a few thousand bottles.
“Sales are good – Pollen Street Social has just taken it on. I think it would work really well at weddings as the wine to toast with the wedding cake,” she added.
Spriggs remains tight-lipped as to whether she’ll release more onto the market this year, but says it is “probable”, though admits there is still a stigma surrounding the semi-sweet style in the UK.
“Brits aren’t ashamed to admit they have a sweet tooth when it comes to food, but when it comes to wine it’s perceived as uneducated to like sweet fizz.
“There’s a snobbery about demi-sec in the UK, which I hate, as if sugar means the wine must be bad, which is nonsense,” she said
Regarding her controversial decision not to make any wine this year due to unfavourable weather conditions, Spriggs says the reaction has been mixed.
“We’ve had a lot of positive support, but there has been some disgruntlement from a few winemakers. It was a difficult decision to make and others chose to make different decisions.
“I’m so glad I did it because it shows how serious we are about the brand. How much the decision would cost didn’t come into our thought process, because to have made wine this year would have been far more costly to our reputation.
Latest release: Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2007
“There was no way I could have made sparkling wine this year – we were a month behind in terms of ripening and I would have been left with flavourless juice.
“Fortunately, both 2009 and 2010 were abundant years for us so we’ve got plenty of stock,” she told db.
Despite a number of requests to buy the rejected grapes, Spriggs didn’t sell a single grape.
“I didn’t want to sell them – it wouldn’t be good for the industry because it would mean that bad English sparking wine would be on the market,” she said.
Nyetimber is in a unique position in England as it is the only producer to not buy in any grapes from other growers.
So far, only Stopham Vineyard in West Sussex has followed Spriggs’ lead and gone public about not making any wine in 2012.
Nyetimber released its Blanc de Blancs 2007 this week at London Collections: Men, a biannual showcase of Britain’s top menswear designers.