My Life in Food: Cherie Spriggs, head winemaker, Nyetimber
Thursday 14 March 2013
Nyetimber's vineyards were planted in West Sussex in 1988 with the aim of making a sparkling wine to rival champagne. Most critics agree they have pretty much succeeded.
Spriggs joined, along with her husband Brad Greatrix, in 2007, after studying at the Wine Research Center in Vancouver and at Adelaide University. In a good year she makes 400,000 bottles but caused a stir last year when she declared that Nyetimber would not produce a 2012 vintage, the grapes not being up to her exacting standards. However, an early vintage of the "grower sparkling wine" was served to the Royal family on the Jubilee barge.
What are your most and least used piece of kitchen kit?
Quite honestly, my hands. I'm not really a kitchen gadgets person and anyway once I've opened a bottle of wine at the beginning of preparing a meal, the rest comes pretty naturally. One thing I haven't used for 10 years is a microwave.
If you only had £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
I would put the £10 in my pocket and go to my allotment to pick some in-season, fresh vegetables. You don't get better flavour and nothing is fresher than something straight from the garden. I'd then use the £10 to buy lots more seeds.
What do you eat for comfort?
British asparagus with a fresh egg (preferably from my own chickens, which I keep in the garden) and sprout garnish is absolutely gorgeous in particular. You really can't beat it.
If you would only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Tough one. My husband Brad and I work together at Nyetimber so fermentation is both our day jobs – so that leads me to bread. But then being a gardener, I'd say potatoes. They are such fun to grow and you can have so many varieties.
What's your desert island recipe?
A chef once taught me how to make Indian curries – so I would take the ingredients for that on my island. There are analogies between cooking a curry and making great wine. Timings really matter, freshness of spices, too. With the same ingredients you could make a variety of dishes, so you'd stay entertained on that island for a very long time.
What's your favourite restaurant?
I like to support restaurants close to the vineyards. In the last five years the choice has really grown. We have a few gems really close to us. A great example is The Pass at South Lodge Hotel. Not only does the chef Matt Gillan create some beautiful dishes, the hotel has a kitchen garden, which really fits with our ethos.
What's your favourite cookbook?
The internet is the place I turn to mostly these days. You can learn a lot about "the best" of whatever your current interest is. I must confess to reading flavourfirst.org quite a bit these days – it's excellent for identifying interesting producers.
Who taught you to cook?
My mother insists she didn't teach me to cook. However, she's certainly responsible for providing me with a confidence to explore, try new things and not be afraid in the kitchen.
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