Five minutes with… Cherie Spriggs

Nyetimber's head winemaker talks about her love of wine and gardening and how you can always find time to make a difference

Food and Drink 19 Jul 2018

Cherie Spriggs of Nyetimber

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I live by the words my father told me many times when I was younger: actions speak louder than words. When I joined Nyetimber 11 and a half years ago, I said right then and there, it’s going to take me 10 years to turn it into a consistent product and I didn’t go out and start talking about it, I put my head down and did what I needed to do. Actions will carry you much further than your words. I apply that to every part of my life; I see it in people that I respect.

Who is your role model?

It’s hard to pick just one but someone who really stands out to me, and who I think about a lot, is Veronique Drouhin. Her family is from Burgundy but she is the head winemaker at Domaine Drouhin, Oregon. I worked for her during a harvest a few years ago and she was a real inspiration to me. She taught me a lot, not just about the technical side of wine but the way you approach things. In fact, at that point, there would have been even fewer female winemakers at the top of their game, so she really stood out.

What food can you not live without?

Salmon – without a doubt. I grew up on the west coast of Canada where we have four different types of Pacific salmon. I love Atlantic salmon too, as long as it’s wild caught, and Nyetimber goes perfectly with wild salmon.

What item, apart from your passport, can you not travel without?

You’re going to laugh, but we always pack our kitchen knife. We really like to cook and I love going to other countries and cooking so often we book self-catering accommodation. Whenever we do that the knives in these places are terrible, so we always bring our own.

What, apart from Nyetimber, do you like drinking?

It’s very much about wine for me. I’m not that interested in spirits and beer. I adore almost all types of wine. I love a good pinot noir and it could be from Burgundy or it could be from New Zealand – it’s a spectacular wine.

Do you have a favourite London restaurant?

It’s hard to choose just one, as London is one of the best places in the world to eat right now, but there is an amazing restaurant in the Grosvenor Hotel, which does lovely lunches. It’s classical food.

What do you like to do on a day off?

I am an avid gardener and the ability to garden here in England is spectacular compared to Canada. I love growing my own food and flowers. I can’t say it’s particularly pretty but the process is incredible. At my allotment I grow any kind of veg you can think of and in my back garden I like to use herbaceous perennials as the main structure.

Apart from wine what are your biggest passions?

I’m quite an athletic person so I really enjoy running and swimming. That’s what interests me generally. It’s hard to find the time, but you always have to make your choices and if I only have time for a short run then c’est la vie. I think it’s important for us to use our time wisely. You can always do a little of something and you can always achieve things with small endeavours.

If you could choose anyone from today or history, who would be your ideal dinner guest?

I’ve got a rather sentimental answer for this. Paul Pontallier was head winemaker at Château Margaux for years and was an incredible mentor for my husband Brad. He passed away a couple of years ago. It would be so amazing for Brad and I if we could have him over for dinner to recapture all those chats about wine we used to have.

Read more about Cherie Spriggs as the first female Sparkling Winemaker of the Year 2018 here