On my latest trip to London I paid my first visit to the English vineyards at Nyetimber and Ridgeview in Sussex. The extensive renovations and enlargements that were taking place on both properties demonstrate the current boom of English sparkling wine. Flourishing locally for a while now, English sparkling wines broke into the awareness of international media when Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2003 was selected as the best sparkling wine in the world in the Bollicine del Mondo competition in Verona in January 2010.
However, Ridgeview is the more export-oriented operator of the two. Even though Ridgeview’s quality is high, they are clearly behind Nyetimber, whose longer cellaring times give the wines a competitive edge with their complexity and champagne-like toasty evolved character. It is a shame Nyetimber does not yet have enough volume for export, as English sparkling wine would need the finest examples to start the international brand buiding. However, the ongoing expansion at Nyetimber should be able to cater for exports in the next few years.
Both top houses stand side-by-side in their wishes for creating a special quality designation for English sparkling wine. Eric Hereema of Nyetimber is, however, still hesitant of the timing. According to him the category is still too small and quality is not yet high and uniform enough for forming an official category. However, Ridgeview is already using the term ”Merret” on their wines, which is the protected name intended for high quality English traditional method sparkling wine in the future.
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2005, Sussex, England 90p
Medium-deep lemony colour and fine bubbles. Toasty and fruity, dried fruit, apricot and honey nose. Touch of oak and sweet floral notes detectable. Focused and long on the mid-weight creamy palate.
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2001, Sussex, England 88p
Pale light lemon colour. Bright, slightly vegetal nose of honey, green apple and wax. Tight and linear structure with a dominating feeling acidity is highly. Restrained and could use a bit more flesh and charm. Fine mousse and lemony finish. Friends of super-acidic blanc de blancs will savour this but it is not for everybody’s taste.
Ridgeview Grosvenor Blanc de Blanc 2006, Sussex, England 85p
Pale lemony colour. Pure lemony and flowery nose with some volatile hints. Gentle toast some rubbery notes. Creamy mousse and good length. Quite straightforward but appealing in its juicy fruit and fine concentration.
Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2007, Sussex, England 84p
Medium-deep lemony colour. Overt and ripe fruity nose of red apple, toast, brioche and rubber. Fluffy mousse, medium-bodied palate with an elegant citric acidic backbone. Nutty and yeasty long finish.
Ridgeview Cavendish 2007, Sussex, England 86p
Medium-deep lemon-peach colour. Overt and round nose of ripe red berries, brioche and honey. Fluffy mousse and succulent fruit on the palate. Medium long, wide and rich finish.
Ridgeview Knightsbridge 2006, Sussex, England 87p
Medium-deep gold-peach colour. Rich and toasty nose with some bruised apple, honey, apricot and earthy notes. Round and voluptuous on the weighty palate lifted by the lovely acidity. Long, slightly drying finish.
Ridgeview Blanc de Blancs 2001 Magnum, Sussex, England 89p
This magnum bottle, disgorged 2,5 months prior to tasting, is a wonderful new launch from Ridgeview, which proves the future potential of the wines. Lovely toast on the nose, cream, flowers and some tropical notes. Slight touch of mushroom and rubber deduct from the overall appeal. Fruity and juicy on the palate with great acidity and a charming soft, velvety mousse.
Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé 2007, Sussex, England 88p
This delicious rosé is made predominantly of Chardonnay with the red wine added being Pinot Meunier. Pale salmon pink colour. Fragrant raspberry nose with gentle chalk, spice, flower and rubber notes. Fruit-forward, intense and long. Very stylish with depth of expression a lovely lean, stylish palate perfected by a creamy mousse and fine acidity.