Nyetimber’s head winemaker Cherie Spriggs, won the 2018 International Wine Challenge Sparkling Winemaker of the Year. Now that’s a big thing. It’s the first time the award has gone outside the Champagne region.
Here I am bigging up Cherie not just because of the award’s kudos, but because on March 8th 2019 International Women’s Day is being marked around the world. I wanted to find out more about Cherie’s wine journey.
She agreed to exclusively answer my questions, to share her love of winemaking, for International Women’s Day.
How winemaker Cherie Spriggs began her wine journey
Cherie was born and raised in Canada and she told me: “My interest began during my biochemistry degree, when I met my now husband Brad and his parents introduced us to the joy of wine.
“They used to have this tradition on Friday evenings where they would take the phone off the hook, sit down together, and open a nice bottle of wine.”
Cherie went on to complete a master’s degree at the Wine Research Centre in Vancouver and then qualified as an oenologist in Australia.
Says Cherie: “Working as a winemaker gives me the wonderful opportunity to blend my love of science with the creative aspects which are so important to the production of exceptional sparkling wine.”
Brad (also a winemaker) and Cherie contacted Nyetimber “to apply for their dream jobs” and they’ve worked there ever since.
Video: Cherie Spriggs and husband Brad Greatrix
Joy at winning IWC Sparkling winemaker award
Cherie says she was “overwhelmingly flattered” to win the award.
She says: “To win and be given recognition was truly an honour. The win was for everyone that works at Nyetimber, who day after day provide inspiration, as well as endless passion, drive and commitment to exceed expectations, all in the pursuit of perfection.
“It was not only a great achievement for Nyetimber, but also gives an indication on the direction this industry is headed in.”
She continues: “We should all be proud that England was the first country in the world to take this award from Champagne. It also represented the first time ever a woman has won the award, and I’m very proud of that too.”
Does it make a difference to be a woman winemaker in the industry?
Says Cherie: “The only time I think about being a woman in the wine industry is when people ask.
“It’s true that the old-world winemaking countries have traditionally had many more men than women, but in the new world winemaking regions there are a variety of female winemakers and while perhaps this isn’t balanced yet it’s certainly heading in the right direction.
“I’m working in an industry that ultimately the goal is about making something for joy, for pleasure, for celebration.
“That’s why I do what I do.”e challenges of making sparkling wine in England?
Nyetimber creates wines from grapes grown across Sussex, Hampshire and Kent and has been at the forefront of the English sparkling wine advance on the wine world,
The area, says Cherie, is “ideal for producing sparkling wine, sharing many characteristics with some of the best sparkling wine vineyards around the world”.
Explains Cherie: “Climate variability is probably the main challenge of making wine in England.
“We have to deal with complications such as warmer than average winters or seasonal frosts in spring that can affect the growing cycle of our vines, however a lot of work goes in to being able to react quickly to these adverse conditions in order to protect the quality of our harvest as much as possible.
“No matter the challenge that the English climate may pose, we do not compromise on quality.
“We didn’t produce any wine from the 2012 vintage as it was too cold and wet for the grapes to ripen and develop the flavours we require to make world-class sparkling wine.
“This decision was a difficult one, not just for me but for our whole team, however we all knew that quality was and is paramount.
“My first obligation as Head Winemaker is to ensure the continued quality of Nyetimber’s wines, and we came to the decision that the grapes from 2012 could not deliver the standards we had achieved previously and have in the years following this.”
English sparkling wines are getting better and better
Says Cherie: “The south of England, and the Nyetimber vineyards across Sussex, Hampshire and Kent, are ideal for producing sparkling wine, sharing many characteristics with some of the best sparkling wine vineyards around the world.
“Greensand or chalk soils in each of our nine sites allow our vines to flourish, and the cooler climate allows for the slow ripening of our grapes, letting us achieve the optimum levels of ripeness and acidity, as well as the complexity and finesse for which Nyetimber wines are renowned.”
Try Cherie’s wines …
The other day I was at a tasting run by wholesaler Liberty Wines. The sparkling wine which floated my boat more than any other was Nyetimber Rosé MV (£44.99 or £30.99 in a buy six deal at Majestic. At Waitrose, it is £29.99, down from £39.99, until March 19.)
As well as the rosé (which I love, and Cherie describes as a sophisticated expression of red fruit) you can find Nyetimber Classic Cuvee MV (£38.99 or £34.99 in a buy six deal at Majestic, or £34.99 at Waitrose).
Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 2013 (RRP £45.99) will soon be available in Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Lea and Sandeman