‘I don’t think in years but in generations’ - Eric Heerema, Owner and Chief Executive of Nyetimber
If you haven’t heard the name Brad Greatrix you will have heard of his wines. Brad is one half of the impressive couple who produce the English sparkling wines at Nyetimber, and on a recent visit to Plumpton Wine College, we had the pleasure of hearing him speak as Nyetimber celebrates its 30th year.
Award-winning wine makers
Brad, and his wife Cherie Spriggs, who is Head Wine Maker at the illustrious British vineyard, have been involved in the English wine trade for almost 12 years to the day, having come to the UK from Canada.
A couple very much at the forefront of the industry, their attention to detail is spectacular and their dedication to their craft is a wonderful fusion of traditional reverence and fearless innovation. Such is their skill, that not only have the wines they have produced at Nyetimber taken the brand from strength to strength, but Cherie has also made a particular name for herself.
This year she was named as Sparkling Wine Maker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge 2018 - a notable accolade for anyone who receives it, but even more so as it is the first time a winemaker from outside Champagne has won this award in the history of the International Wine Challenge.
Heritage and innovation
With all of that in mind, Brad’s talk at Plumpton College was very much about celebrating the 30-year history of Nyetimber to date, as well as discussing it’s philosophies and plans for their contribution to the future of English sparkling wine.
Of course, the brand is notable for its dedication to sparkling wines alone, so it was only natural that the evening started with a glass of their Classic Cuvee. What followed was an enticing narrative, starting with the history of the estate that Nyetimber sits on, all the way through to the arrival of the current owner, Eric Heerema, whose personal passion for English wine has been an important driver in the ongoing refinement of the brand and its wines.
One doesn’t have to look far to discover the multitude of awards and critical praise heaped upon Nyetimber. However, it is particularly interesting to learn about the details that make them a fine example of how detailed adjustments and refinement can push English wine further.
Brad (left) and Guy
Science meets art
For example, on the one hand they are almost religiously dedicated to making their sparkling wines using traditional methods. Grapes are hand picked and small parcels are individually assessed for quality by Cherie herself. Having singled out anything up to 90 unique parcels from across the vineyard, Cherie and Brad then bring together a fusion of artistic flair and scientific precision to create their unique wines.
All of Nyetimber’s sparkling wines are also aged for extended periods of time, allowing the lees to interact and engage with the wine. Ever paying attention to the details that make the difference however, Cherie and Brad began experimenting a number of years ago with ways to reduce oxygen levels in the bottles, and limit outside influences as much as possible.
To reduce the effect of light, they use amber glass bottles. To remove oxygen, they flush the bottles with nitrogen before filling them. To prevent the cork from altering the taste of the wine, they started using Diam corks more than a decade ago - they are flushed with Carbon Dioxide to extract the volatile compounds of cork and eradicate the molecules responsible for giving a taste to the wine, especially those causing cork taint.
Celebrating in style
Arguably showcasing the pinnacle of Nyetimber’s achievements, this year, as they celebrate the brand’s 30th year, they have released their most prestigious wines to date, the Nyetimber 1086 (2009) and 1086 Rose (2010).
Retailing at £150 a bottle, they are the product of particularly exquisite grapes discovered within the vineyard in their respective years, and while they celebrate the history of the vineyard and the estate, they are also an indicator of the eternal quest for quality that the brand has come to embody.