A former Langford resident and Belmont Secondary grad has made it into the wine industry’s history books.
Cherie Spriggs was recently named sparkling winemaker of the year during the International Wine Challenge, which brings together more than 20 countries and 500 vineyards from around the world. Spriggs is also the first woman to ever take home the award.
“[We were] astonished. We’ve been following and entering this competition for quite some time,” Spriggs said. “It’s quite humbling to get this recognition.”
As head winemaker with Nyetimber, a company in England that makes sparkling wine, Spriggs is responsible for choosing the site to plant the vines, what to plant, how to take care of the vines, harvesting the vines and turning the juice from the fruit into sparkling wine.
But it’s not a fast process. From start to finish, it takes roughly eight years to make sparkling wine, beginning with planting the vines and roughly three years to yield its first crop. Once it’s been made into wine, it takes another three to five years to transform it into sparkling wine.
For Spriggs, the blend of science and art makes the profession exciting.
“The thing about wine is as much as you can apply a variety of science principles there are still some things that science doesn’t know and it comes down to your taste, your perception and your intuition,” she said. “There’s that really lovely blend between those two fields.”
Spriggs’ passion for the wine industry began years ago. After growing up in Langford, she moved on to study biochemistry at Queens University in Ontario. It’s at Queens where Spriggs met her husband Brad Greatrix. Greatrix’s parents loved wine and introduced the young couple to the tradition of sharing and enjoying wine together. After taking a trip to France’s infamous Burgundy wine region, they fell in love with the process of making wine and decided to enrol in the wine research centre at the University of British Columbia, which is still in operation today. The duo quickly realized studying wine was great, but what they really wanted to do was make it.
After completing their wine-making degree at the University of Adelaide in South Australia, they started working in the wine industry, and shortly after Spriggs found her dream job at Nyetimber roughly 11 and a half years ago.
While Spriggs enjoys her craft in England, she continues to pay homage to Vancouver Island while overseas.
Having grown up playing at Goldstream Provincial Park and climbing Mount Finlayson, Spriggs was heavily influenced by nature.
“That’s been a strong influence on me, even now, when we’re working with the vineyards, we try to take a very natural and as much as possible, a hands off approach and I think that’s because of my inherent respect for how nature works,” she said.
Now, as the first woman to win the sparkling winemaker of the year award, Spriggs hopes to encourage more women to get into the industry.
Eric Heerema, owner and executive chief at Nyetimber, has worked with Spriggs and Greatrix for more than a decade.
“I want to congratulate Cherie on this milestone award which is a huge accolade recognizing her extensive and successful career at Nyetimber,” Heerema said in a statement. “Cherie is tremendously knowledgeable, passionate and committed to her job and it is such a delight to work closely with her.”