Pioneering English sparkling wine producer Nyetimber have been celebrating their 30th anniversary this year in style. First came an overhaul of their bottle labels, with an elegant and intricate shield design; then came a landmark Sparkling Winemaker of the Year award for Chief Winemaker Cherie Spriggs; and finally last month they made English sparkling wine history with the release of the first prestige cuvée from this side of the Channel.
Nearly ten years of hard-work and secrecy went into the project, which was revealed at an exclusive launch event at The Ritz in London last month. The new range, named ‘1086’, includes a sparkling white and a sparkling rosé, and aims to rival the very best from Champagne, both in quality and price tag.
The 1086 wines are produced solely from the best parcels on the Nyetimber estate; a supreme process of selection that is only made possible due to their admirable commitment to harvest and ferment all 90 of their parcels separately. Indeed, no effort has been spared during the winemaking process: the bottles undergo a minimum of 5 years ageing on the lees and 2 years post-disgorgement bottle ageing before release.
We were so impressed with the first two vintages, Nyetimber 1086 2009 and Nyetimber 1086 Rosé 2010, that we decided to test them against champagnes of a similar price tag. As such, we assembled an expert panel of critics, including Jancis Robinson MW, Giles Fallowfield, Philip Tuck MW, Peter Crawford and Matt Segal, and a broad range of prestige cuvée champagnes, including Dom Pérignon 2009, Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2006, for an eye-opening blind tasting at 67 Pall Mall. The panel scored each champagne and sparkling wine (out of 20) and guessed their identities using our online smartphone voting system.
Billecart-Salmon Nicolas François Billecart 2002 finished top of the pile with a group average score of 18.4/20 – perhaps unsurprising considering it’s that vintage and has undergone the longest lees ageing of the line-up. Next came Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 166 NV with 18.3/20, and sitting proudly in third place was the English sparkling wine blanc, Nyetimber 1086 2009, with an outstanding 18.1/20 average. The English sparkling wine rosé, Nyetimber 1086 Rosé 2010, finished just below the other two rosés, with an average score of 17.2/20.
Although ranking champagne and sparkling wine of this quality inevitably reveals more about individual preferences than overall quality – and therefore any league table must be observed with caution – interestingly only one of the six tasters at the table identified Nyetimber 1086 2009. In past blind tastings that have incorporated both English sparkling wines and champagnes, even the best performing English sparkling’s have been easily identifiable.
Nyetimber 1086 is indeed groundbreaking. With its abundance of chalky character, lemon zest and sherbet delight, England’s first prestige cuvée is more than a match for the best that Champagne has to offer, and one that demands attention from even the most loyal Francophile wine lovers.
The champagnes tasted are listed below in order of rank, by group average score. Tasting notes are all The Finest Bubble’s.
|Billecart-Salmon Nicolas François Billecart 2002 | Group Avg. Score 18.4/20 | TFB Score: 19/20 | Rank: 1
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 14 Years | Disgorged: Spring 2017 | Dosage: 4 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1.5 Years
Nice ripe pear and lemon with a hint of creaminess and bright acidity. Very little ML if any, light and fresh and some hints of chalk and lees ageing. Nice mid-weight, rather nice on the end; lingers long.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 166 NV | Group Avg. Score 18.3/20 | TFB Score: 19/20 | Rank: 2
45% PN, 39% CH, 16% PM | Base Vintage: 2010 | Reserve Wine: 42% | Lees Ageing: 6.5 Years | Disgorged: Winter 2017 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Lots of oak and wow so much fruit and pineapple. This has to be Krug.
|Nyetimber 1086 2009 | Group Avg. Score 18.1/20 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Rank: 3
46% CH, 43% PN, 11% PM | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: July 2016 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 15 Months
Really forward dusty chalk character with ripe apple and pears. Nice balance on the mid-palate, good freshness and acidity. Wow, its so fresh and ripe and has opened up now and is more round. When you go back there is so much lush ripe fruit.
|Clos Lanson 2006 | Group Avg. Score 18/20 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Rank: =4
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 7.5 Years | Disgorged: December 2014 | Dosage: 3 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
Ripe fruit, mainly peaches and nectarines. Light and fresh on the palate, strong mousse and richness. This has a slight green herbaceous character on the mid-palate, some lees character and hints of almond – so slight oxidation character in production. Nice long length.
|Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 2004 | Group Avg. Score 18/20 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Rank: =4
100% CH | Lees Ageing: 11.5 Years | Disgorged: November 2016 | Dosage: 3 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Bright and fresh pear. Some ripe pineapples, freshness and elegance. Nice balance of acidity and fruity freshness. Nice lees character, long length and good texture.
|Dom Pérignon 2009 | Group Avg. Score 17.8/20 | TFB Score: 17.5+/20 | Rank: 6
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: 2017 | Dosage: 4 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Lots of aniseed. Slightly reductive so this is the DP. Lots of freshness and bubbles, nice clean finish and some greenness.
|Billecart-Salmon Elisabeth Salmon Rosé 2006 | Group Avg. Score 17.7/20 | TFB Score: 18/20 | Rank: =7
50% CH, 50% PN, inc. 10% Red Wine | Lees Ageing: 10 Years | Disgorged: June 2017 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Some reductive notes and then strawberries and raspberries. On the palate the freshness comes through first, then blackcurrant and red currant and some cherry. Some hints of spice.
|Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé 2006 | Group Avg. Score 17.7/20 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Rank: =7
70% PN, 30% CH, inc. 15% Red Wine | Lees Ageing: 8.5 Years | Disgorged: December 2015 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 3 Years
What a delight; richness and warmth, some concentrated raisin and fruit cake character.
|Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 | Group Avg. Score 17.6/20 | TFB Score: 18/20 | Rank: 9
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: 2016 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Ripe fruit and freshness and lots of different characters. Some custard, elegance and layers. Is this the 1086, as acidity is quite refreshing and has some of that slight herbaceous character?
|Nyetimber 1086 Rosé 2010 | Group Avg. Score 17.2/20 | TFB Score: 17.5/20 | Rank: 10
75% PN, 25% CH | Lees Ageing: 5 Years | Disgorged: June 2016 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Strong colour and bright, rich cherry hints. Fresh acidity and wow lots of red currants, raspberry, tomato and spice. Some nice acidity.
|Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2009 | Group Avg. Score 16.8/20 | TFB Score: 17/20 | Rank: 11
69% PN, 31% CH | Lees Ageing: 8 Years | Disgorged: March 2018 | Dosage: 4.5 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 7 Months
Lots of candy and some brown apples – seems not quite right to me. Sweetness and bubbles but poor finish. Probably faulty?