WEST SUSSEX – 26 October 2020: Temperatures in late September across South East England were warmer than all recent years, helping Nyetimber’s grapes to reach optimum ripeness earlier. Across Europe, September’s average temperatures were around 0.2 degrees celsius warmer than the previous warmest September on record in 2018. As a result of the good weather, this year saw the second earliest start date for Nyetimber’s harvest after 2018.
Overall growing conditions this year generally favoured Pinot Noir, but harvest also saw some excellent parcels of Chardonnay. Along with Pinot Meunier, these are the three celebrated grape varieties exclusively grown by Nyetimber, England’s pre-eminent sparkling wine producer.
Besides overcoming the challenges of ensuring an appropriately socially distanced harvest by 300 hand pickers, Nyetimber also had to contend with a late spring frost in May which caused mixed ripeness in certain blocks of grapes. Careful selection by the skilled pickers allowed only the best bunches to be selected for pressing. Quality over quantity is of paramount importance for all Nyetimber wines.
It took 13 days to harvest a record 260 hectares (640 acres) of Nyetimber estate-owned vineyards in West Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. This represents the largest area of harvested vines of any English Sparkling Wine producer and is expected to yield one million bottles.
“Whilst 2020 has certainly had its challenges, we were really pleased with the results of our first socially-distanced harvest, yielding grapes with very good ripeness, nice sugar levels and balanced acidity,” said Cherie Spriggs, Head Winemaker at Nyetimber. “The average temperature in late September was warmer than all recent vintages, which allowed the grapes to reach their optimum ripeness earlier. This bodes well for what should be a great vintage.”
Nyetimber, and the English Sparkling Wine industry in general, continues to be a UK success story. Despite the challenges faced by Covid, the British consumer continues to be discerning about quality and willing to invest in great wines, including Nyetimber, for enjoyment at home. Total production of English Sparking Wine increased from 5.9 million bottles in 2017 to 10.5 million bottles in 2019. In terms of sales, 5.5 million bottles were sold in 2019, an increase of 70% over the prior year – and international sales accounted for 10% of this. The total area under vine in the UK now stands at 3,579 hectares, up 83% since 2015. Nyetimber expects to sell two million bottles a year by 2030.