Despite a difficult year, a West Chiltington vineyard is popping the corks to celebrate its 25th year in business.
The award-winning sparkling wine specialists Nyetimber, which became renowned in 2012 for scrapping its crops due to bad weather conditions, is now optimistically looking to the future.
Christian Holthausen of Nyetimber discussed the company’s involvement in the Queen’s Jubilee, winning a multitude of awards and overcoming its most difficult year.
Although Nyetimber is a young wine producer, the estate it is located on dates back to 1086 with a mention in the Domesday Book.
Wine began to be produced on the estate in the 11th century until the Dissolution of the Monasteries during Henry VIII’s reign. It was the monks in Europe that were largely responsible for wine making.
Christian explained: “During the 16th century nearly all of our wine making knowledge went out the window because of King Henry VIII disbanding the monasteries.
“It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century when wine making started up again in England.”
Originating from the Champagne region of northern France renowned for sparkling wine since the 17th century, Christian has a wealth of experience working on the estates.
But moving to England to work for a brand that began life in September 1988 was a challenge he could not refuse.
“The actual planting of the grapes started again 25 years ago where it’s based in West Chiltington, and the spot itself is positioned with a beautiful view of the South Downs, protected by the coastal winds.”
Outside Champagne, Nyetimber was the first estate to ever plant the three key varieties of grapes that make their sparkling wine so indulgent - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
“There’s currently 417 different wineries in the UK at the moment, but a lot of that is very hobbiest wine making – like you might have your mad aunt and uncle who live in Gloucestershire and have a couple of vines, but in terms of serious producers it’s a much smaller number.”
Winning over 60 accolades and trophies including the ‘Best Worldwide Sparkling Wine’ three times at the International Wine and Spirit Competition, one of their greatest honours in 2012 was serving up Nyetimber on ‘The Spirit of Chartwell’ during the flotilla at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the grand lunch at Westminster Hall the following day.
“We were really excited and as a result of that Nyetimber became internationally famous because a number of people living abroad wanted to know what was being served to the Queen.
“Since, we’ve also been the sponsor of ‘London Collections: Men’ for the British Fashion Council.
“It’s a really nice catwalk show, focussing on British designers.
“And we were used at Paris Fashion Week, where Nyetimber was consumed in France for the very first time.”
As things are on the up it is easy to forget that Nyetimber fell on hard times recently after the company announced that due to the bad weather conditions in 2012 it would not use that year’s harvest.
“It was a very difficult decision to make.
“A wine maker gets 30 times in his or her life to make a vintage, so to remove one of those is a very emotional choice.
“We could have made wine last year, but we decided not to and I think that’s really the key message.
“We didn’t feel it was good enough for us and our customers.
“Why produce something that isn’t going to be up to par.
“It’s been amazing over the last six months, now a lot of famous wine makers and people know of us because we went public with it.
“It worked out positively in the end.”
Moving forward and continuing to provide wine across the UK to supermarkets, Michelin-starred restaurants and independent wineries, Nyetimer are taking their first step across the border this June and exporting to Japan, before moving into North America later in the year.
Preparing to celebrate their 25th year in business, Christian spoke about the big day in September.
“25 years for England is pretty incredible.
“I came from a Champagne house that was started in 1785 and I now can’t help but think how Nyetimber will be remembered in 200 years time.”
To learn more about Nyetimber and where to pick up a bottle, visit www.nyetimber.com or call 0207 734 8490.