“English Champagne”

Vines,_Chapel_Down_Winery_-_geograph.org.uk_-_388829The headline of this item is enough to drive the French berzerk (luckily few French read vicmatus.com). Bad enough the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne must deal with Korbel regarding “California Champagne,” but just wait til some writer or some restaurant has the audacity to refer to English sparkling wine as champagne. It’ll be worse than the Seven Years’ War. Of course it will never be referred to in any official capacity as champagne because the U.K. is part of the E.U. and will abide by the rules of name protection.

Until recently, the French didn’t give a moment’s thought to any of this. But as the Washington Post‘s Anthony Faiola reports, recent grape harvests in England have resulted in some remarkably good sparkling wine. So much so that even the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was supplied with native bubbly and not French.

Faiola explains,

Increasingly hospitable temperatures have helped transplanted champagne grapes such as chardonnay and pinot noir thrive in the microclimates of southern England, touching off a wine rush by investors banking on climate change. Once considered an oxymoron, fine English sparkling wine is now retailing for champagne prices of $45 to $70 a pop. In recent years, dozens of vineyards have sprouted in Britain’s burgeoning wine country, with at least one traditional French champagne maker doing the once-unthinkable—scooping up land to make sparkling wine in England.

In other words, the English vintners owe it all to climate change (and the Italians and Spaniards can blame climate change). Of course they’ve got a long way to go. No champagne lover should worry his Krugs and Bollingers will be replaced by the Ridgeview Wine Estate in East Sussex. But maybe Cava should be worried.

Photo of Chapel Down Winery courtesy of Simon Carey

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