Champagne houses eyeing English fizz

Champagne houses will soon be seeking to acquire some of England’s top sparkling wine estates, according to one producer in the UK.

Christian Seely believes the Champenois are starting to take notice of the quality of English sparkling wine

Speaking to the drinks business, Christian Seely, co-owner of Hampshire-based estate Coates & Seely said:

“The French have already expanded the Champagne region as much as they can and there is nowhere left to plant so no more Champagne can be made.

“Their next move is to target China, and once Chinese consumers catch on, there won’t be enough bubbles to go around, so they will have to start looking elsewhere.

“Due to supply and demand, the price of Champagne will inevitably go up and the Champenois will start scouring the UK for land.”

Coates & Seely markets its sparklers as “Britagne”

Though perhaps loath to do so, Seely believes the French are finally coming round to the idea that England makes decent fizz.

“They are starting to accept that England makes very high quality sparkling wine and when they need to produce more fizz, we are going to look like an enticing proposition, but you can’t underestimate how ill at ease the French feel in the UK.

“English sparkling wine is not far off being taken seriously by the French. The quality from the top producers is astonishingly good, and we’re doing this with relatively young vines.

“This hasn’t escaped the notice of the Champagne houses and their investment committees, which I think is an entirely positive thing that I’d welcome,” he said.

Seely believes one of the key reasons the Champenois are taking an interest in England is that parts of the country share the same terroir as Champagne.

“At Coates & Seely, we’ve been planting on chalk soils that the French understand and use traditional Champagne varieties,” he said.

The estate produces three sparkling wines: a Brut Reserve NV, Blanc de Blancs NV and a Rosé NV. A fourth fizz and the estate’s first vintage effort, La Perfide Brut Rosé 2009, a blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Pinot Meunier, is about to launch in the UK.

In his role as managing director for AXA Millésimes, Seely would love to add a Champagne house to his books.

“It’s the one thing we’re missing at the moment. We’re always searching for sites in Bordeaux and Burgundy, but I’d love AXA to buy a property in Champagne,” he said.

As for whether English fizz would profit from a catchall name like “Champagne”, Seely isn’t sure it would work.

“We trademarked ‘Britagne’ and use it to describe our sparklers, but I’m not sure there will ever be one single name for English sparkling wine.

“The French call it crémant d’Albion, which I rather like, but I think people might end up asking for a glass of ‘Hampshire’, ‘Sussex’ or ‘Kent’,” he said.

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