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Nyetimber to abandon 2012 vintage

England's largest wine estate, Nyetimber, has announced it will be making no 2012 sparkling wine, because the difficult growing season means it can not produce sufficiently high quality wine from its grapes.

Winemaker Cherie Spriggs told decanter.com that the decision was taken and announced to staff yesterday (Tuesday), ‘after serious tasting, analysis and discussions between myself, our viticulturalist and our CEO.’

Spriggs said they had been watching the situation ever since flowering, when they knew there was the potential for a difficult harvest, ‘but as with a great vintage, you are never really sure until the very end. We may take a few grapes for research purposes, but that’s it.’

Nyetimber, after a recent expansion by owner Eric Heerema, now covers 430 acres, and makes up to 400,000 bottles per year. It uses only its own grapes to produce its range of sparkling wines, and this is the first time its 24 year history as a wine estate that it has been forced to abandon the harvest entirely.

Nyetimber doesn’t expect a huge effect on supply – their range of sparkling wines age on the lees for different times, and come on to the market at different times, so there should be no major stock issues, although numbers of bottles would be lower.

Julia Trustam Eve at English Wine Producers confirmed that yields would be down at many estates, by as much as one-third to one-half, but said that many still expected high quality. ‘Picking is around 10 days behind, and obviously vineyards have had to be much more observant this year. But I’ve had reports that what’s out there is good quality.’

Bob Lindo at Camel Valley is among the producers who are expecting a reduced yield of high quality. ‘There’s been no need to apply for extra Chaptalisation, certainly not here anyway, because the grapes are surprisingly ripe and the quality of the juice so far is excellent,’ said Lindo, while confirming that numbers are down.

‘It is the disappearing vintage for many. Since May when some vineyards were partially frosted, there has been drought, floods and a diminution at flowering and a shrivelling of those berries ahead of the ripening curve due to the prolonged flowering period. It’s been more a succession of unrelated extreme events than a vintage.’

‘This was a personal decision from us at Nyetimber,’ said Spriggs. ‘We can only make decisions based on our own quality standards, and the grapes we have in front of us. Of course we can’t know what is happening with other producers and truly hope they are not facing the same thing. But we are aware that the decision does not just affect us; we work with an agency that provides pickers, and they will be losing the work this year. This was the right decision, but a tough one on everyone.’

Written by Jane Anson

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