In the traditionally male-dominated wine industry, more women are making their mark. Annabel Tan speaks to five inspiring winemakers and winery owners from both the Old and New Worlds.
Head Winemaker of Nyetimber
Those who know Cherie Spriggs often peg her as a perfectionist. It is a fine quality to have as head winemaker of Nyetimber, where she and her winemaker husband, Brad Greatrix, have been leading the charge for English sparkling wine.
Having studied biochemistry in university, Spriggs always had a passion for science. As a trained classical pianist, she was also in touch with her artistic side. Her love for wine led her to do a Masters of Science degree at a wine research centre in Vancouver, Canada. It was then she realised that, as much as she enjoyed studying the science in wine, her creative side had her yearning to be more involved in winemaking. “I just felt like that fit of science and art was such a beautiful blend, and it became obvious I should be a winemaker,” she says.
In 2007, after a few years working at different wineries, Spriggs and her husband decided to pursue their dream jobs at his suggestion. She recalled tasting a bottle of Nyetimber some years prior and detecting a texture and potential in the wine she had never experienced before, and decided to get in touch. As luck would have it, the winery in West Sussex in the rural heart of South of England was looking for winemakers. Less than three weeks later, the Canadian-born couple started working with Nyetimber and have been in the company ever since.
Spriggs’ uncompromising attention to detail and commitment to crafting consistent, reliable wines at Nyetimber has garnered her and the brand much recognition and accolades. In 2018, she won Sparkling Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge – an achievement for the history books as she was the first person outside of Champagne, France, as well as the first woman ever, to win this prestigious award. She says, “After working for 11 years at Nyetimber, building its quality and consistency and being the pioneer of our thriving industry, receiving such an award was extremely gratifying.”
On Nyetimber’s winemaking practice, she explains: “We only use grapes from vineyards that we own. This gives us the ability to really know our vineyards on a very intimate level and to control every stage of the winemaking process, from vine to bottle. Our philosophy is to stay out of the way and ‘keep it really simple, fairly neutral’. Then, these beautiful flavours that we are so blessed with can just naturally come through. Put simply, we like to let the fruit speak for itself.”
While Nyetimber produces a wine named after her – the Cuvee Chérie Multi-Vintage, Spriggs adds that the label that best represents her as winemaker is Nyetimber’s 1086 Prestige Cuvee. “These are the best of our best and represent the pinnacle of perfection that we strive for here at Nyetimber. More than once, I’ve been accused of being a perfectionist so these prestige wines fit the bill nicely.”
As much as she holds true to her high standards, Spriggs is careful not to get too caught up in the chase. “Anyone in the pursuit of perfection will know that you always have things that you are working on. But as things get better and better, the details you need to focus on become more and more particular. Hence, we regularly just try to remind ourselves of the ‘why’ behind what we are doing,” she adds. “I’m working in an industry where ultimately the goal is about making something for joy, for pleasure, for celebration. That’s why I do what I do.”
This story first appeared in the July 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore