Amidst the storm of finding the right name for English sparkling wine, that has been blowing around for the past few months, following Coates & Seely’s launch of their eponymous wine brand, HRH Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, has taken the seat to preside over the UK Vineyard Association.
HRH Camilla’s passion for wine, and particularly English fizz, following her comments that it’s as good as Champagne, and should be called such, provides the UKVA with the best figurehead to take on the mantle following Lord Montagu of Beaulieu’s retirement from the post of President of the UKVA.
The launch of Coates & Seely’s labelling decision to name their English sparkling wines ‘Britagne’, has caused a raft of articles and comment amongst the industry and press alike. With RidgeView‘s ‘Merret’ brand offering a similar overarching name to encapsulate sparkling wine – much like ‘Cava’ does in Spain, ‘Prosecco’ in Italy, ‘Sekt’ in Germany – people are trying to find a solution to what could be a never-ending debate. The term English sparkling wine is one that is descriptive and true to the product, even if it is a bit of a mouthful…
The new PDO (protected designation of origin) rules which will classify some of the wines in questions as ‘Traditional Quality Sparkling Wine’, permit only wines made in the traditional method in England or Wales from grapes grown in that locality from the following varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot noir précoce, Pinot meunier, Pinot blanc, and Pinot gris. Some of our best fizzes are made from other varieties, including Seyval blanc (notably Breaky Bottom), which will not fall under the PDO classification. This is not something that will stop producers of these wines from being successful – as we have seen in Italy, where the Super-Tuscans, and Garagistes of France, produce the best and most expensive wines outside of the controlled appellation in which they are based – but it could, however, limit their marketability on a national and international stage, for a country still in its infancy in the grand scheme of things. At the same time, however, as is seen the world over, these limitations and regulations are put in place to enable wines to be of the best possible quality, enhancing their reputation.
In terms of branding, and denoting region of origin and grape varieties, like many French appellations have achieved over hundreds of years, England is a very difficult country to break down in the same way. Relatively speaking, our wine production levels are so low and our production industry so young, that it would be almost like shooting ourselves in the foot to try and break up the market that exists sparsely across the country.
A generic name for English sparkling wine could, it is heavily debated, give the product a catchier, sexier, and perhaps more marketable name. But in New World countries (Australia, New Zealand, USA), that don’t have a fancy name that genericises their top sparkling wines, it is the producers that have made names for themselves and paved the way for other producers to have the same success that they do. The brands that exist in English sparkling wine market are strong, and their products speak volumes. In any market, there are market leaders that encourage and expect competition from newcomers, and it is up to those new brands to build themselves up to a point where they can really compete.
If the need for a overall name for English sparkling wine (that isn’t ‘English sparkling wine’) is real, then it should be researched and developed among marketeers, historians, industry experts, and implemented by an industry body (like the UKVA, of which the prestigious Duchess of Cornwall is now President) for minimal cost, if any, to the producers of the wine. The implementation of a name by one single producer denotes the fact that they are the purveyors of the name and therefore demand better traction in a market that should be fair game.
There is such development to take place in the English wine industry, with reputation and popularity growing daily, that this decision will not be taken lightly. If it’s not going to stay as ‘English Sparkling Wine’, as many producers, young and old, believe it should, here at Sparkling English Wine, we can’t wait to see the final result. Watch this space…!