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English sparkling wine at the Nyetimber Harvest Lunch

Earlier in October, a group of approximately 60 guests were entertained by Mr & Mrs Eric Heerema and their excellent team at Nyetimber – home to their fabulous English sparkling wine. It was the annual “Harvest Lunch” and in typical English fashion, the skies were grey and a cool wind was sweeping through the vineyards.

From the Nyetimber Reception room, which overlooks the magnificent medieval house from which the estate takes its name, guests we were taken by Land Rover to see the harvest in full swing. Here, they picked Pinot Meunier black grapes and were assured that the fruit would be in the Nyetimber multi-vintage blend hitting the market in 2024!

There are currently 210 hectares (518 acres) under vine at Nyetimber, which produces approximately 1.2 million bottles. Following recent substantial land purchases in Sussex, Eric’s ambition is to double the area under vine so that by 2025, they will be producing in excess of 2 million bottles per annum. The Nyetimber estate currently has 48% Chardonnay vines with the rest split between the black grapes of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Over 10-20 days per year, Nyetimber uses a team of 330 pickers and an extra 30 support crew. The pickers use small crates, each able to hold 15kg of grapes. These are much smaller than crates used in other vineyards which can often hold up to 40kgs. The Nyetimber Head Winemaker, Cherie Spriggs, and her Winemaker husband Brad Greatrix believe that the smaller crates helps to preserve the integrity of the fruit prior to the crush.

There is a fabulous new Press House in the middle of the Nyetimber vineyards so that picked fruit has virtually no journey to make from vine to press. There are 6 presses in operation during the harvest and the fruit from over 100 different plots are kept separate until the final blending. After pressing, the juice is not pumped but instead falls by gravity to the tanks on the floor below.

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