Nyetimber Estate - Part One

Nyetimber is one of the most highly acclaimed and well-loved brands of English wine, synonymous with prestige, quality and elegance. The estate’s story dates as far back as the 11th century with the Grade II listed manor house at its heart. Nestled in the beautiful Sussex countryside, Nyetimber estate was mentioned in the Domesday Book with its original name “Nitimbreha” thought to translate as “newly timbered house”. As is the case with every historical property, Nyetimber has changed ownership countless times over the years. Notable proprietors include Thomas Cromwell and subsequently, (when Cromwell fell out of favour with King Henry VIII) Anne of Cleves.

This illustrious estate was developed into the vineyard we know and love thirty years ago. In 1986, Chicago-born Stuart and Sandy Moss purchased the then 49 hectare estate. Stuart was a notable manufacturer of medical and dental equipment whilst Sandy had a successful career in archaeology and as an antiques dealer. They had often travelled to the UK for their work and had a long-term dream of retiring to an English country house. Little did they realise they would become the driving force of the infant English wine industry. With incredible vision, determination and foresight, in 1988 they were the first to plant exclusively the three traditional Champagne varieties, (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). At the time, the concept of producing quality wine in England was laughable, but thankfully Stuart and Sandy proved everyone wrong!

Nyetimber’s original Chardonnay vines are now among the oldest in the country.

After kick-starting the English wine industry, Stuart and Sandy made the brave decision to retire and sold Nyetimber in 2001. They had created a sought-after brand and acknowledged the business had been taken as far as it could under their lead, (the days of hand-labelling every bottle were at an end!). Nyetimber was bought by song-writer and producer, Andy Hill, whose claim to fame was being co-writer of the Eurovision winning “Making Your Mind Up” by Bucks Fizz. He initially purchased Nyetimber for its incredible manor house, but soon recognised the potential of the vineyard.

However, the next change in ownership was to become another pivotal point in the estate’s journey. Eric Heerema, a Dutch entrepreneur, had already established a small vineyard at his home at Cold Harbour Farm. In 2006, he purchased Nyetimber for £7.4million. His influence and dedication have seen Nyetimber’s vineyards expand to their current 260 hectares and Nyetimber become one of the leading English sparkling wine brands. Cold Harbour vineyard was sold in 2011.

Today there are nine Nyetimber vineyard sites, five of which are in West Sussex, two in Kent and two in Hampshire. The growth of the business to incorporate additional sites is testament to the team’s continuous commitment to the highest quality. It is beneficial to procure vineyard sites in differing locations. Each site was specifically chosen as they share similar soils, altitudes and aspects, whilst maintaining unique microclimates. Therefore, even when growing the same varieties, each site will produce fruit with different characteristics. These individual flavour profiles allow for extensive creativity during the blending process in the winery. Multiple sites also help to mitigate against the calamities that disease and frost can wreak as whilst one site may be affected, another hopefully may be less so.

At the beginning of Nyetimber’s viticultural venture, Kit Lindlar of High Weald winery made the wines. Kit himself was instrumental in the establishment of Nyetimber as he sourced and planted the vines for Stuart and Sandy. Teaching herself and gaining experience with each year, Sandy became winemaker from 1995 onwards with help from consultant Jean-Manuel Jacquinot. In 2001 Sandy was awarded the McAlpine Winemaker of the Year accolade from the English and Welsh Wine of the Year competition, (as it was known at the time). After Sandy retired, Nyetimber had a succession of distinguished and influential winemakers, including Peter Morgan who went on to teach at Plumpton College and Dermot Sugrue who is now winemaker at Wiston Estate.

In Part Two, discover how Nyetimber Estate has continued to evolve and flourish into one of England’s leading sparkling wine brands…

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