Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2010
£32 - Purchased in the UK
You might think an esoteric, British bubbly is an odd place to start for someone who claims to be “so committed” to affordable and accessible wines, right? Sure, I hear you. I know it’s going to be tough for most of you to find this wine without booking a plane ticket. I know that at around $60 Canadian this wine could hardly be called affordable. I know that this is far from local, far from the wine you’d imagine yourself drinking daily (although, maybe dream bigger?).
But it’s kind of the perfect starting point because a) everyone loves a celebratory toast, especially when making a debut, b) sparkling wine should be part of your regular wine repertoire like woah and c) it’s a great example of how fabulous sparkling doesn’t have to come from Champagne.
This sparkling wine from England is, however, made in the Champagne style, otherwise known as the méthode champenoise or traditional method (a misnomer, perhaps, since it’s not the original way of making sparkling wine, but more on that in a later post). All Champagne is made in this style, no exceptions. It’s expensive, it’s finicky, and it takes a long time (some Champagne houses take years before releasing their wines).
Basically, Champagne-makers use either Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier (or a combo of all three) to make a still wine. They bottle it, dump some yeast and sugar into it, stick a crown cap on it, and wait. While the bottles are hanging out, a process called secondary fermentation takes place. This means the bubbles are created and trapped inside the bottle. And, because the spent yeast hang out in the bottles for a while, the wines get these delicious yeasty, bready, toasty notes.
The wines are delightful. They’re usually high acid but balanced (often by a dose of sugar before the final cork is inserted). They can range in style, depending on the house, from weighty and toasty to light and zingy. Their bubbles are always delicate, persistent, and plentiful.
While you can only buy Champagne from Champagne, you can buy almost identical wines from most other parts of the world. In France, there’s even a whole range of wines called crémant that are made in the same style but using different grapes, or the same grapes from outside the Champagne region, for seriously a third of the price. Spain uses native grapes and calls theirs Cava, and it’s usually less than $15. Ontario even does a fine trade in stunning sparkling, which I will 100% be sharing with you often and exuberantly. And then there’s this beauty from Nyetimber in England made from all three Champagne varieties and aged on lees (spent yeast) for three years.
So how does this wine taste? Well, it tastes great. It tastes like extremely expensive Champagne at a fraction of the cost. It tastes like a celebration in a glass, even if all I wanted to celebrate was a bag of chips and the debut of my blog. But really, I served it for my British parents’ birthdays (they’re days apart) and it felt so right. My mother drank her glass down in seconds flat and said, “Oh, I rather like this actually.” Now if that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.
Nose: Lemon, fresh pear, brioche, almonds
Palate: Laser-like precision. Great acidity, lemony zinger with a creamy mouthfeel. The nose carries through for a luxurious tasting wine that you’ll have to stop yourself from gulping. It’s super balanced, and the flavours are pure, so—if you’ve managed to stop gulping—you can taste each on its own or as part of a harmonious whole. It’s jubilant but has weight. It’s fresh and fruity, with a side of French toast (light on the syrup).