Monday, October 19, 2020

Nyetimber -- Bubbles from Great Britain

Hello, friends.

These are quiet times around the vineyard, but as we round the horn into the beauty of fall around here, I’m starting to feel like there’s some light around the corner.

To celebrate, or at least take a breath before, what I’m hoping may be the beginnings of the piercings of this veil of negativity we’ve been under for what feels like forever. I want to share with you Nyetimber 2013 Blanc de Blancs, a sparkling wine from…England?

Yes, England. You read that correctly. While the English are better known for their fondness for pounding bottle after bottle of Claret (red Bordeaux to the rest of us) there’s not been a real emphasis on wine production among our friends across the pond. However, as our global climate warms, some areas which would have been too cold to produce vinifera grapes consistently are now finding themselves fertile ground for grape growing. The total area under vine in England has almost quadrupled over the last decade, largely in the south of England along the English Channel.

Enter Nyetimber. With vineyards spread across Sussex, Hampshire, and Kent – the three counties in the southeast corner of the U.K. – Nyetimber was the first English winery to grow the three primary varietals which comprise Champagne: Pinot Noir, Petit Meunier, and, of course Chardonnay.

The Nyetimber estate takes its name from Nitimbreha – the name of the valley in which the first vines were planted nearly 900 years ago, according to a reference in the Domesday Book. The main sparkling varietals were planted much more recently – only over the last 30 years or so, and those wines were largely consumed locally or elsewhere in the EU. With England’s departure from that European body, I imagine these wines will begin appearing in US stores much more frequently.

Thanks to a well-timed visit from the wine fairy (thanks, Pia!), the Sweet Partner in Crime and I had the opportunity to build part of an evening around our first experience with English bubbly -- which I must say was very pleasant. This 100% Chardonnay spends about five years on its lees, so I readied myself for a Champagne-like experience. What I got was quite different.

The nose of this Blanc de Blancs is somewhat yeasty with a nice backing of lemon and apple blossom. My first sip was refreshingly bracing. Crisply layered green apple flavors and flint ride a wave of tight bubbles like a breeze off the Solent. The texture was fascinating – I’ve never felt the bubbles of a sparkler on my teeth as tightly as with this wine. The slow-to-build finish exits with some toasty vanilla and a bit of a return of the yeast from the nose.

 I found the Nyetimber to be less rich and creamy as a lot of Champagnes, but that is certainly not to its detriment if your taste for sparkling runs more to the invigorating. I thought it was incredibly lively and would make a fabulous aperitif when we get back to having dinner parties again. Since this wine has such a lovely palate-cleansing effervescence, I expected it would make a good food wine. No disappointments there.

Lobster Rolls and Bubbly

In landlocked central Pennsylvania, one might not expect to find good seafood, particularly shellfish. However, in Lemont, just outside of State College, sits the beacon that is Maine Bay and Berry, an absolutely essential stop for us these days. MB&B makes weekly runs to various New England stops to bring wonderfully fresh fish back to us in Centre County. One of their signatures, not surprisingly is lobster, and we adore their lobster rolls – which are light on mayo and heavy on flavor.

Since the basic rule of food and bubbly is “get a little fat in your mouth,” we had the Nyetimber alongside our lobster rolls with a side of potato chips. Once we dug in, I don’t think there was a coherent word that passed between us – just some guttural yummy noises. If you have a chance to try the Nyetimber with shellfish – and I imagine it would be astoundingly good with oysters – do so.

The Nyetimber is a special occasion wine – this bottle is available for around $40-55, depending on seller and quantity, but I imagine that price will descend. There are also some less-expensive cuvees from the estate available. There's also a fun feature where you can enter a code from the label to see the precise date when your bottle was...well...bottled, riddled, and disgorged.