Nyetimber - The Pride of England!
Wednesday, 15 October 2014 by Tom Hudson
Last week a few of us had the chance to visit a world class vineyard. The only unusual thing about our trip was that it wasn't to a Chateau in Bordeaux or a Domaine in Burgundy but to a vineyard in West Sussex about an hour's drive from London!
We at Farr Vintners have been big fans of Nyetimber's sparkling wines for some years. We're not alone, the wine is served regularly by Buckingham Palace and Downing Street to overseas dignitaries as an example of British achievement. None of us had been to the estate before and it was a great experience to visit the historic property (which gets a mention in the Domesday Book in 1086), see the vineyards and taste a selection of library vintages back to 1992.
The Nyetimber Estate is situated in an idyllic rural setting at West Chiltington near Pulborough. Our visit coincided with the conclusion of the 2014 harvest and all were in positive spirits about the vintage after the good summer and mild, dry September and early October this year.
The vineyard, identified as having similar soil structure to those of Champagne, was originally planted with Champagne varietals in the late 1980s by Stuart and Sandy Moss during times when hybrid grapes like Muller Thurgau and Seyval Blanc were king. Many thought they were mad at the time but they proved their critics wrong and pioneered quality sparkling wine production in the UK. Today, it is English sparkling wines, led by Nyetimber, which are finally gaining international recognition.
The estate was purchased in 2005 by Eric Heerema who has invested heavily and had the vision to take the estate to a completely new level of both quality and production. In 2006 there were still only 15 hectares of vineyard in production. Today the vineyard spans 150 hectares in both West Sussex and Hampshire and the quality of the wines has never been better.
On an autumnal day of alternative sunshine and showers we strolled through the recently picked vineyards. We were guided by Sales Director Julian Kirk who explained the careful plot selection for individual varieties and the many improvements which have been made by trial and error through the years by this pioneering producer with an obsession for detail.
Back in the tasting room - one of several beautifully converted medieval barns on the estate - it was fascinating to taste some older vintages and the improvement in the quality of the wines was quite evident, the recent 2009 releases representing the pinnacle of what has been achieved so far.
As wine merchants we spend our lives celebrating and promoting wines principally from mainland Europe and further afield but we left Nyetimber with a real feeling of pride to be able to boast that a genuinely world class wine is being made here on our own doorstep in England.
Our thanks to Eric Heerema and Julian Kirk for the very warm welcome received and for an excellent lunch.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2009 55% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Noir & 19% Pinot Meunier
Very pale with a fine mousse. Intense, perfumed, aromatic. A hint of toast with voluptuous melon and citrus fruits combined. On the palate, steely, clean and razor sharp. Lovely refreshing, zesty citrus fruits. Precise, focussed and with lovely balance. Super tension and "zing". Very long. Extremely good.
Nyetimber Rose 2009 45% Chardonnay, 53% Pinot Noir, 2% Pinot Meunier
Attractive hint of strawberry jam on the nose with some honey and cherry too. A much richer, thicker and rounder texture than the white. Soft. But plenty of zip in acidity too with red currants on the finish.
Nyetimber Tillington Vineyard 2009 79% Pinot Noir & 21% Chardonnay
This is the first single vineyard release from Nyetimber and arguably their greatest wine released to date. Half of the tiny production of Tillington 2009 has been held back and will be released later as "late disgorged".
Pale with a fine and persistent mousse. An intense perfume to the nose with incense, wood-smoke and toasted sourdough. A definite step up in complexity here. Fine textured with delicacy and elegance. Limes & green & red apples. Firm fresh acidity with multiple layers across the palate.Lovely purity, balance and a super long enduring finish. Deliciously fresh, zesty & refreshing. Very fine indeed.
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2007 100% Chardonnay
Very open, forward and toasty on the nose. Apple fruits on the palate. Quite tart with malic acidity and a slightly lean austerity to the mid-palate. But it is fresh, clean and has a good long finish.
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2003 (magnum) 100% Chardonnay
A really smoky nose, reminiscent of smouldering oak logs in a fireplace. Charcoal. Something really Burgundian about the mid palate.  Big plush and rounded style for Nyetimber. The hot summer of 2003 left its mark. Good now.
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 1998 100% Chardonnay. Disgorged 2012.
This wine is an old favourite and has won many awards over the years. We have also had some fun serving this blind and to date, it has never yet been identified as anything other than a top-quality Champagne!
Mature looking pale gold with fine bubbles. An intense oily nose with extraordinary strawberry and blackcurrant fruits. Ripe and sweet. Heady.Thick-textured and rich on the palate with a lovely ripe sweetness. Creamy and generous. A zingy acidity cuts right through the centre palate lending balance and finesse. Complex and long and drinking perfectly now. A great success.
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 1996 100% Chardonnay
Paler than the 1998. A lovely clean and fresh zesty nose - amazingly youthful still. Big and firm on the palate with an apple and citrus fruit and clean structured acidity. Ready now but no rush.
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 1992 100% Chardonnay
Deeper in colour - a bright golden hue. Mature nose of toast, tobacco and fresh mushrooms. A hint of caramel too. Soft and rounded on the palate but the acidity is still firm and clean. To drink soon but fascinating to see a 22 year old Nyetimber still drinking well.