English Sparkling wine is coming of age. Countless tastings over the past years have seen local fizz pitted against offerings from Champagne and further afield, and the results, at least those that we see, tend to paint English Sparklers in a very favourable light. To be completely honest, we would still reach for champagne 9 times out of 10, but there can be no denying that there are now some very good bottles being produced on these shores.
The first estate to create sparkling wine from the traditional three Champenois grapes was Nyetimber – whose first plantings were done as long ago as 1988. Today they cultivate 170 hectares, using only their own fruit for production. Grapes are grown on a combination of chalk and green sand, on south facing vineyards spread across West Sussex and Hampshire. Secondary fermentation happens in bottle and the wines are aged in bottle for a minimum of three years before release. In production terms, it is all very Champenois…
What struck us yesterday about tasting 2009 and 2010 Classic Cuvee was just how pure and balanced they were. There was a fine chalky nutty character that leads into notes of salt and fresh citrus. Acidity is fresh, but discreet, and similarly the dosage, whose level isn’t published, seems remarkably demure. As you would expect the 2009 has more flesh on its bones, with ripe orchard fruit and a note of beeswax. But for us the pick was the 2010, which presented itself far more clearly, with notes of cashew, rock salt and oyster shells alongside lemon pith and fresh cox’s apples. Though the blend is 51% Pinot Noir, 36% chardonnay and 13% Meunier, it is the Chardonnay to us that speaks loudest.
So if you’re feeling a little patriotic, or just want a little variety in your Sparkling life, this 2010 comes highly recommended.