Where is Nyetimber? Geographical classification
Nyetimber Manor itself lies just south of the 51st parallel, long considered the northern limit of viticulture. Modern viticulture in England is a child of climate change with whose chalk-rich soils that parallel those of Champagne, though with some greensand which is not found there. Huge investment has poured into the sector over the last 20 years, especially from wealthy individuals who - like the founders and the owner of Nyetimber, have made their fortunes in other spheres. Just as Champagne can be a blend from up to five departements - Marne, Aube, Aisne, Haute-Marne and Seine-et-Marne - English sparkling wine like Nyetimber is often produced from grapes grown in a number of counties. Unlike Champagne, however, there is no overall defined region.
The winery's ancestral home and original vineyard is Nyetimber Manor in West Sussex, located to the south-southwest of London. It now has 11 vineyards covering 325ha in the south of England, in the counties of West Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. Today, it produces 1m bottles of classic method sparkling wine, 10% of the UK total production.
Nyetimber has deep roots in the past
The manor is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, which mapped land ownership in the kingdom of William the Conqueror - the Norman who emerged from the Battle of Hastings as king of England. The Domesday Book also mentions the last vineyards in England, relics from Roman times.
All sparkling wines are produced using classic bottle fermentation and they mature for three to seven years on the fine lees; the current vintage of the Blanc de Blancs is 2014.
The people behind Nyetimber
Precisely nine centuries after the compilation of the Domesday book, Stuart and Sandy Moss, an American couple from Chicago who had made a fortune from medical equipment, bought the 16th century manor house. While a few English wines, made from Germanic varieties like Müller Thurgau and Huxelrebe had enjoyed limited success, the Mosses were true pioneers in planting the first Chardonnay vines in the UK, and planning to produce top class sparkling wine that could compete with Champagne. Working with a Champenois consultant, Jean-Manuel Jacquinot they produced their first wine, a 1992 Blanc de Blancs, made from four-year-old vines which impressed critics on its release in 1996. The 1993 Classic Cuvée blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, followed.
The Mosses sold the winery in 2001 before returning to the US. The buyer was Andy Hill, co-writer of Making Your Mind Up, the song with which the UK won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1981. When Hill sold the estate in 2006 for £7.4m to Dutch entrepreneur Eric Heerema, the current owner and managing director, there were just 16ha. Heerema, who has multiplied the vineyards by 20, was joined in 2007 by Canadian winemakers Cherie Spriggs, who heads the cellar as Head Winemaker, and Brad Greatrix, now Senior Winemaker.
Nyetimber’s product range
The portfolio is built on the three classic Champagne varieties - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Retail prices range from £37.50 (€42.60) for the Non Vintage Classic Cuvée and £46 (€52.27) for the vintage Blanc de Blancs, to £100 (€113.60) for the single vineyard Tillington, and £150 (€170.44) and £175 (€198.85) respectively for the 1086 white and rosé Prestige Cuvés. A Jubilee edition was launched in the honour of the late Queen Elizabeth's 70th anniversary on the throne. Nyetimber was one of her particular favourites.
Nyetimber estimates that the UK sparkling wine sector could be worth around £400m in 2028, more than €460m, up from £70m in 2018.
The majority of English sparkling wine is bought and consumed within the UK. Nyetimber now exports around 15% of its production, with a large proportion going to Scandinavia. Other markets, including Germany and Japan, have been opened.