‘Crus’ for English Sparkling Wines
The demands come as England draws closer to having its first Protected Designation of Origin approved by the EU.
Camel Valley in Cornwall has already had its own PDO passed by DEFRA lawyers and, if approved by the EU DOCG committee, it will be the UK’s first Grand Cru, according to owner Bob Lindo.
Differentiating between different growing areas in England would help producers “stop making sweeping generalizations about English wine in general”, said Christian Holthausen, marketing and communications manager at West Sussex-based Nyetimber, and could become the equivalent of the Champenois’ cru-based identification system.
“Conditions in Kent can be very different from conditions in Cornwall, even more so depending on the year and depending on the style of wine,” he said.
Holthausen spoke out in favor of English producers promoting their own individual identities. “Look at how well they communicate in Champagne … there are unique differences between a producer like Krug who speaks about barrel fermentation and a producer like Lanson who talks about a non-malolactic style,” he said.
It’s vital each estate communicates about “what they do that is different from other English producers,” Holthausen added. In Nyetimber’s case, that means talking about owning 100 percent of its own grapes.
Mark Driver from East Sussex’s Rathfinny Estate said “wines from different geographical areas have different characteristics. The wines from the chalk downs of southern England will be different from those from Suffolk, Essex or Cornwall,” he said.
Driver believes it would be “nonsense to try and find a generic name for English sparkling wine”, as suggested by certain producers including Coates & Seely and AXA Millésimes. “I think it is wrong to try and label English sparkling wine Britagne, Tribute or Merret,” he said.
He added that a description such as Sussex Sparkling is more informative and easy to understand. Lindo joined Driver in rejecting calls for a generic name, claiming it “dumbs down, rather than elevates.”
Lindo believes that English producers should take a leaf out the Champenois’ book – “if you look at Champagne labels, the big brands write their name in larger type than ‘Champagne’ – they have their own PDOs,” he said.
For Julia Trustram Eve from English Wine Producers, it’s vital the consumer “knows what they are purchasing, and that we are communicating that. Currently one blanket name cannot communicate that”. “At the moment, and due to the many successes of many of our producers, the simple word ‘English’ has communicated the message that what we have here does represent quality. England is a region, just as Champagne is,” she said.
She added, “The English sparkling wine industry is still young compared to that of Champagne – however there are a number of highly successful brand names that have been responsible for increasing the perception in English sparkling wines and its ongoing success, and growing its reputation. It is the brand names in England that are paving the way for others, and setting the high standard – the same couldn’t be achieved with one single name.”