Sparkling wine in Sussex! A Nyetimber Classic Cuvée !
And its making quite a name for itself…and English wine-making.
[quote]Bollinger beware: here comes a Sussex sparkler
By Richard Alleyne, Last Updated: 1:19am BST 28/10/2006
Video: Roland Hancock on the Sussex bubbly revolution
Nyetimber: ‘The best kept secret in the wine trade’
Tucked away in the lea of the South Downs, so isolated that even local villagers barely know it is
there, is Nyetimber, the vineyard that has almost single-handedly transformed the reputation of English wines.
Started by two eccentric Americans ambitious to compete with the best that the Champagne region has to offer, in less than 20 years it has gained a reputation among aficionados as one of the world’s best sparkling wines.
It has also spawned a host of imitators across England and created for the first time a future for the domestic wine industry.
Now Nyetimber has been taken over by a multi-millionaire businessman who has ambitions to more than quadruple production and at the same time turn a fledgling cottage industry into a professional business.
Eric Heerema, 45, a Dutchman who settled in England with his family after making his fortune in investments, has bought the 36-acre estate in West Sussex, complete with its medieval manor house and lake.
He plans to pump millions of pounds into the business and increase production from 70,000 bottles a year to more than 500,000 within six years, the equivalent of a small or medium Champagne house.
Mr Heerema, a lifelong wine buff and Anglophile, moved with his three children to nearby Tudor Farm, around six miles from Nyetimber, in 1999.
“I always hoped that I would own a vineyard one day but I assumed it would be abroad,” he said. "The realization that you can produce wine in this country was a real discovery for me. I had read articles about English wine getting better. I decided to start my own vineyard at Tudor Farm but I always knew Nyetimber was the number one in reputation.
"I bought a bottle from my local shop and was astonished, positively astonished. I was really surprised how good it was. It was then I realised it would be possible to realise my dream in this country. But my dream is far bigger.
The vision is immense. I want to be making 500,000 bottles a year in a few years’ time. "
Mr Heerema and his 35 workers have already planted another 150 acres of vineyard. Eventually, he wants completely to renovate the manor house and build a cellar to mature the wine as in the chalk caves of France. Because of the huge investment, Mr Heerema is not expecting a profit until 2012. By then he hopes the reputation of English wines will have been transformed.
He said his vision is to build on the legacy of Stuart and Sandy Moss, the couple from Chicago who first set up the winery. Their big idea was to grow Champagne grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – instead of the German varieties commonly used in this country.
They calculated that the soil in West Sussex was similar to that of Champagne and, with global warming, the improved climate would be perfect for the grapes.
The gamble paid off. They astonished the world by taking several top awards. They also regularly beat Champagnes in blind tastings and their product became a firm favourite of the Queen, who served it at state banquets.
Mr Heerema, who paid about £8 million for the estate, has got off to a flying start with its Classic Cuvée 1998 being voted the best sparkling wine outside of the Champagne district in this year’s International Wine and Spirit competition. He has also just finished harvesting the latest batch of grapes and early signs are that it is going to be an exceptional year.
He said: "Since the 1950s there has been increasing wine production in England but most people grew the German grape variety. You can never make a high quality wine from it and the market was not very interested. Then the Mosses decided to try it the Champagne way. People thought they were mad.
“They assumed that Champagne grapes would not ripen and would rot away. The Mosses were real pioneers. They made a success of it and others followed. You could argue that global warming is doing a great favour to wine-making in England.”
Jonathan Ray, the Daily Telegraph wine writer, said: "Nyetimber is a fantastic success story and the word is that this year it is going to be a very good vintage.
“It is the best kept secret in the wine trade. I would prefer Nyetimber to all but the best champagnes.”
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And don’t forget, as this review notes, the fine wines from down under:
A lot of people pooh-pooh Australian table wines. This is a pity as many fine
Australian wines appeal not only to the Australian palate but also to the cognoscenti of Great Britain.
Black Stump Bordeaux is rightly praised as a peppermint flavoured Burgundy, whilst a good Sydney Syrup can rank with any of the world’s best sugary wines.
Château Blue, too, has won many prizes; not least for its taste, and its lingering afterburn.
Old Smokey 1968 has been compared favourably to a Welsh claret, whilst the Australian Wino Society thoroughly recommends a 1970 Coq du Rod Laver, which, believe me, has a kick on it like a mule: 8 bottles of this and
you’re really finished. At the opening of the Sydney Bridge Club, they were fishing them out of the main sewers every half an hour.
Of the sparkling wines, the most famous is Perth Pink. This is a bottle with a message in, and the message is ‘beware’. This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding.
Another good fighting wine is Melbourne Old-and-Yellow, which is particularly heavy and should be used only for hand-to-hand combat.
Quite the reverse is true of Château Chunder, which is an appellation contrôlée, specially grown for those keen on regurgitation; a fine wine which really opens up the sluices at both ends.
Real emetic fans will also go for a Hobart Muddy, and a prize winning Cuivre Reserve Château Bottled Nuit San Wogga Wogga, which has a bouquet like an aborigine’s armpit.