At 385 acres Nyetimber is the largest vineyard in the UK and its wine is arguably the most famous. It has grown from an initial 35 acres planted in 1987 to become an award-winning estate producing wines that rival the best of Champagne.
Over the last few decades, the south of England has proven that they can produce fizz of decent quality. The reason for this is we have the same chalky soils as north-east France. English producers recognised this in the 1980s and started to plant the Champagne grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Maximum yields allowed are 9 tons and vine densities are half those of Champagne. With these limitations as well as the unreliable weather, producing wine in the UK is not easy. Despite these difficulties, more and more vineyards are popping up in all parts of England and Wales, even as far north as Lancashire.
Nyetimber has been flying the British flag high for many years and has gone from strength to strength. Having recently been served at a Downing Street dinner hosted by the Queen and also on the occasion of her golden wedding celebrations, popularity is increasing. This is not in vain since the Classic Cuvée 2003 was crowned “Champion of Worldwide Sparkling Wines” in the 2nd annual “Bollicine Del Mondo” competition in Italy, pipping many grande marque champagnes to the post!
Here are my notes of the most recent releases:
Classic Cuvée 2005
62% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Noir, 19% Pinot Meunier. We tasted this wine in the office very recently and it was showing brilliantly. It displayed aromas of green apple, cream and lemon citrus fruit. On the palate the wine was beautifully rounded, medium-bodied with redcurrant, orange blossom and a touch of Greek honey. Pure class and excellent value. A vintage sparkling wine for a non-vintage price.
Blanc de Blanc 2001
100% Chardonnay. This wine was only disgorged in 2008 after having spent 7 years on the lees. It was very fresh yet with leesy, buttery aromas. With a searing acidity and long length this wine has huge potential to age. It was floral and honeyed with fine bubbles that lasted. Very refined and sophisticated. One for the cellar!