I used to mock the English for their wine. What kind of person could ever choose a bottle of white wine or sparkling white wine over the iconic French houses of the Loire or Champagne regions? Even the Spanish cava or the Italian Asti Spumante gets higher sparkling ratings than an English equivalent…surely? Well no, it’s not like that anymore.
The Brits have discovered the bubbles and even though it’s taken them over a hundred years to figure this out, they’ve also discovered that the soil in Southern England is pretty similar to the soil in Northern France. And why shouldn’t it be, it’s only 25 miles away! Well better late than never, that’s what I say.
I was in a bar at a posh hotel ordering a dull white wine when the bartender (as he should) rescued me with a suggestion that would forever change me – English champagne. Champagne’s not my favorite drink, but every now and again, why not? I thought what the heck, let’s have a go. He deftly poured a glass out of a bottle labeled Nyetimber. Lumberjacks immediately came to mind. But there is nary a lumberjack in the Nyetimber story.
Cherie Spriggs is the winemaker behind Nyetimber, a perfectionist who in 2012 didn’t bottle a vintage because the grapes were not up to par. She only uses grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) from Nyetimber’s own 152 hectare vineyard in West Sussex. For her crafting the perfect champagne is an obsession – the result was absolutely delicious. And you don’t have to trust my sophomoric palate; Nyetimber has won significant awards for its quality, even beating out its neighbor across the channel. The annual International Wine Challenge – picture those in the know drinking and judging the finest wines that grapes has to offer and picking the best – awarded the 2009 Nyetimber Classic Cuvee the Gold Medal.
Of course they’re not allowed to call it champagne, but champagne is indeed what it is. And frankly it was as good as any champagne, in my limited experience, I have tasted. So hang on to your horses there and remember what Napa Valley did to Burgundy and Bordeaux! Well, the Brits are coming and winning awards and producing some of the finest sparkling white wine in the business.
For now Nyetimber is only available at retailers in the UK or abroad in Japan and Denmark.