Nyetimber CEO expects production to rise to two million bottles a year and the industry to produce at least 20 million overall. Nyetimber CEO Eric Heerema sets out his vision for the industry to mark English Wine Week and predicts growing competition for land in southern England from French producers
[West Sussex, England – June 19, 2020] A boom in English Sparkling Wine will see production double in the next decade, the country’s leading producer is predicting.
Eric Heerema, owner of Nyetimber, said he expected to produce two million bottles a year by 2030, up from one million today, with the entire industry producing at least 20 million bottles.
Setting out his vision of the future of English Sparkling Wine to mark English Wine Week (June 20th), Mr Heerema also forecast a growing battle between English producers and their French counterparts seeking to muscle in on prime land in southern England.
In recognition of the growing competition, several celebrated French champagne houses have established vineyards in the UK, buying up large parcels of land in Kent and Hampshire.
‘Several Champagne houses have indeed already established their sparkling wine production in England, and I expect that we have only seen the early beginnings of that so far,’ Mr Heerema said.
‘With global warming making Champagne production ever more challenging in the coming decades, and given the high quality reputation of English Sparkling Wine this tendency is very likely to not only continue but rather to intensify.’
Climate change, the ideal chalky terroir in southern England and increased investment in the UK industry mean English products are increasingly seen as world class and beating Champagne in international competitions.
‘At Nyetimber we have always endeavoured to produce the very best sparkling wine and although we feel that our wines are unique and different from Champagnes, it does give us satisfaction when those blind tastings confirm the quality of Nyetimber,’ Mr Heerema said.
‘But our greatest satisfaction is to provide every drinker of Nyetimber a special moment and a unique experience.
‘English sparkling wine has already proven its quality potential and as ever more producers apply professional and high quality standards, this tendency will strengthen. The establishment of well reputed Champagne houses in England to produce their own English Sparkling Wine is further proof that English Sparkling Wine is not just a trend but has come to stay and will ever be more recognised internationally.’
‘As we have been and still are establishing new vineyards – this year we planted on around 44 hectares, most of that in Kent – our production should increase considerably, resulting in just under two million bottles a year.
‘Production of English Sparkling Wine is certainly increasing every year, and although it’s just a guess, by 2030 there could be at least 20 million bottles of sparkling wine being produced.’
Mr Heerema also forecast that the number of jobs in English sparkling wine – currently around 2,500 – would increase at the same rate as production.
He cautioned against rushing into adopting a new ‘category name’ like prosecco or cava to cover all English sparkling wines, as some in the industry have suggested.
‘For now ‘English Sparkling Wine’ is successful and becoming a category name in its own right. To have a bespoke name is sometimes a benefit, and there might eventually be one for English Sparkling Wine, but we shouldn’t rush the process because there is still too much of a lack of uniformity in geographic locations, production methods and level of development amongst producers,’ he said.
He also has reservations about the idea of moving towards a county-by-county appellation system for English Sparkling Wine, for instance naming products ‘Sussex’ or ‘Hampshire’.
‘Nyetimber have vines planted in three counties because the microclimate, soil and local landscape suit our quality requirements for viticulture and winemaking,’ he said.
‘It therefore seems to be too restrictive to define an appellation system based on county boundaries and too early to establish other regional delineations. For the latter we need a longer track record of wine characteristics, ageing potential and style.’
Noting that some producers were starting to make Sparkling Wine in England by using other methods than the traditional bottle fermented method, instead fermenting their wines in vats, Mr Heerema insisted: ‘The traditional method is firmly established as the highest quality means of producing sparkling wine and we believe that it is the best way forward for world class, age-worthy wines to be made in England. If wine producers want to make sparkling by alternative means we shouldn’t prevent that by regulation as long as it is clear for the consumer what they are buying. Ultimately the best wines will rise to the top and be recognised by consumers so and as an industry we shouldn’t be worried about how the wines are made, as long as they are produced solely from UK-grown grapes.’
Mr Heerema said Nyetimber would continue to offer both vintage and non-vintage sparkling wines.
‘We firmly believe that both styles have a place in the market and in fact we produce both types of wines at Nyetimber,’ he said.
‘The non-vintage, or multi-vintage as we make at Nyetimber, allows a consistency and therefore house style to emerge, and the complexity from reserve wines brings extra depth to multi-vintage wines. Vintage wines capture best of all the distinctive qualities of a growing season and allow a certain individuality in the wines that is exciting. We have four vintage wines and three multi-vintage wines in our portfolio.’
Asked what advice he would give someone seeking to get into the English sparkling wine industry, he said: ‘Have a good conversation with your banker, and your family. To build up a successful English sparkling wine is going to take many years, or rather generations – at least that is Nyetimber’s horizon, but if executed well it’s worth all efforts.’
Background on Nyetimber
For over 30 years, Nyetimber has had a single aim: crafting exceptional English sparkling wine that rivals the very best in the world. A true pioneer, Nyetimber was the first producer of English sparkling wine to exclusively grow the three celebrated grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Regarded as England’s finest sparkling wine, Nyetimber is made from one hundred percent estate-grown grapes.
Nyetimber now has eleven vineyards covering 327 hectares across West Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. Owner and Chief Executive Mr Heerema works together with Head Winemaker Cherie Spriggs and Winemaker Brad Greatrix to produce wine of extraordinary elegance and quality.
Ms Spriggs was named ‘Sparkling Winemaker of the Year’ at the International Wine Challenge 2018 – one of the most highly-regarded wine competitions in the world – the first time a woman and the first time anyone from outside of the Champagne region of France had ever won.
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall has hailed the trend for English Sparkling Wine to be beating the French at their own game, saying: ‘Since becoming president of Wines of GB in 2012, I’ve witnessed our wines going from strength to strength, in quantity, and even more importantly in quality. Our winemakers have been winning international prizes, and I’m happy to say, beating our French friends on many occasions.’