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The soils and undulating slopes of Nyetimber in West Chiltington, West Sussex, are perfect for growing the classic Champagne grapes. This fine fizz, made from 100% chardonnay, is elegant, toasty and mature.
Product Code: SG1644
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The original Nyetimber estate in the heart of West Sussex is steeped in English history. Domesday records mention ‘Nitimbreha’ as one of the estates given by William the Conqueror to his Norman feudal baron Roger de Montgomery. Unsurprisingly, over the turbulent centuries that followed the Nyetimber estate changed hands many times until it was bought by the nephew of American Banker JP Morgan in 1919. The fashionable Arts & Crafts movement heavily influenced the renovation of the main building which still retains much of the decorative stained glass and intricate plasterwork installed at the time. The winemaking era began in 1988 when the first Nyetimber vineyards were established by Stuart and Sandy Moss from Chicago. They bought the estate with the ambition of transforming it from a working farm into a commercial vineyard. They carefully planted the vineyards with the classic Champagne varieties of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier which are ideally suited to the soils – similar to those found in Champagne itself - and undulating slopes here. In 2001 the couple sold the business on to the songwriter and producer Andy Hill whose biggest claim to fame was co-writing the winning Eurovision song for his wife’s group Buck’s Fizz. We suspect that the name of the group was no simple coincidence. In 2006 the estate was acquired by the present owner Eric Heerema who has expanded the area to over 400 acres, making it the largest in the UK to make wine from only estate-grown fruit. The wines produced are full-flavoured, premium sparklers made using the same methods as those in Champagne. The Nyetimber cuvées have won enthusiastic reviews from the wine press and are regularly served at state occasions. The classic blend is chardonnay-dominated with pinot noir and meunier in support and has at least three years’ bottle maturation before release for sale. The rich texture and finesse of the chardonnay-only cuvée put it on a par with fine Blanc de Blancs Champagne.
Thanks to a combination of warmer, drier summers, better understanding of soils and micro-climates, and heavy and intelligent investment in vineyards and wineries, English and Welsh wines are now better than ever.There are now more than 500 vineyards planted totaling over 2,000 hectares, with a 75% increase in the last six years alone. Because of our northerly latitude and maritime island climate, site selection is crucial. Not surprisingly, the majority of vineyards are found in the English southern counties of Sussex, Kent, Gloucester and Hampshire though there are some found as far north as Yorkshire.Styles of wineEnglish and Welsh wine producers as a whole continue to make major improvements to their wines, but it is the producers of premium sparkling wines which have received the most accolades in recent years, blazing a trail for the industry as a whole to be given the serious attention it deserves.Sparkling wine - This is a major growth area for the UK with our climate well-suited to the production of sparkling wine which accounts for 66% of total output. But it is the premium, bottle-fermented wines that have made the rest of the world sit up and take notice. Sussex and the South Downs are perfect for growing the classic mix of Champagne grapes, chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. The South Downs are actually on the same geological formation (limestone on top of a sandstone belt) that continues down through the east of France to Champagne. However, this type of soil is not everything and many vines for top bubbly made over here are grown on very different, often clay-based soils quite different from the Champagne-like calcareous formation, and our climatic conditions seem to be just as important, if not more so.The best sparkling wines give the Champenois a good run for their money and are better than many Champagnes. We currently buy top-quality premium sparklers from Nyetimber in West Sussex, who with 400 acres are the largest producer of the style in the UK, and Ridgeview in Ditchling Common, Sussex.Dry white - Reflecting changing tastes, wines made here are increasingly made on the drier side, helped along by warmer summers and improved techniques in vineyard and winery. Still dry white wines show a natural acidity and crispness in their youth. They tend to have a certain nettley, hedgerow freshness about them that is peculiarly English and most attractive. Such wines now represent 24% of all English wine production, Still Rosé & red - This is style that is also increasing in popularity and one at which the UK can excel, rosé again shows well in its youth, often with attractive strawberry aromas and just a hint of sweetness to balance out the acidity. Reds are a minority as they tend to sometimes lack the necessary ripeness to allow them to show at their best unless our summer and autumn weather is particularly benign. Advances are being made here too though, as producers experiment with different varieties and vineyard sites to find which ripen best where. Front-runners are dornfelder, rondo and pinot noir but at the moment, none has impressed sufficiently and prices are rather high so we have not yet selected any to offer to members.Wine labelling - English and Welsh wines are produced and labelled under a Quality Wine Scheme which was established in 1992. They are classified in ascending order as table wine, regional wine or quality wine.Grape guideFaced with a blank canvas, what vines should a grower on these islands plant? Many of the varieties planted have German origins, partly because it was originally German-trained winemakers who helped UK growers with advice and expertise. It was also felt that these varieties would have better success in such a northerly latitude and, in the 1970s, when there was a resurgence of wine growing in this country, German wines were in their heyday. It is vital to choose early-ripening varieties with good resistance to fungal disease; many of those that have had success are in fact hybrids, again developed in Germany.Today, there is a patchwork of a multitude of different varieties found in the vineyards of England and Wales. With one or two notable exceptions, these are generally blended together to create wines with a real point of interest and difference from those found elsewhere in Europe. As many of the grapes will be unfamiliar to members and because they rarely appear on their own, so may be difficult to get to know, we provide the principal characteristics below.More recently, and line with the success of sparkling wines on these shores, pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier have been planted extensively and continue to be so.
A very good year in England in terms of fresh, ripe fruit flavours but from a disappointingly small crop. Rainfall levels essential to fattening up the grapes at the right times did not come at the right times, and there wasn’t enough sunshine. However, the low yields meant that fruit quality was good. 2007 sparkling wines are very good indeed.
"This English sparkler certainly sparkles with a fine mousse. It is mature and yet it may well continue to develop and gain more complexity and depth as it is still comparatively young. It has a toasty aroma, a very nice balance of acidity and fruit and lasts long on the palate."
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