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New names split English wine industry

Two new names coined for English sparkling wine have been far from welcomed by the English wine industry.

Hampshire-based producer Coates & Seely, founded by Nicholas Coates and Christian Seely, has coined the term “Britagne” (pronounced “Britannia” rather than to rhyme with Champagne), in the hope it will be adopted for English sparkling wine.

Seely, managing director of the wine division of AXA Millésimes, which includes Château Pichon-Longueville in Bordeaux, believes English sparkling should have its own generic name to reflect its increasingly high standing.

“We don’t believe that “English Sparkling Wine” does our product justice – it’s too literal and bland,” Seely said.

Wines would have to be made from the Champagne grapes and have a second fermentation occur in bottle in order to be designated “Britagne’”, while the production method would be referred to as the “Méthode Britannique”.

Reaction from the English sparkling wine community has been mixed. Both Nyetimber and Ridgeview agree that there is a case to be made for a category name.

However, Nyetimber’s CEO Eric Hereema thinks Coates & Seely are jumping the gun: “It’s still too early for a category, and so too early to decide on a name,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ridgeview’s CEO Mike Roberts has been working on plans to see the term “Merret” adopted as the generic term for English sparkling wine, after the 17th century English physician Dr Christopher Merret – the first to document the deliberate addition of sugar for the production of sparkling wine.

Ridgeview owns the copyright for the term and uses it own its own products, but envisages it being a publicly owned trademark used by accredited producers meeting strict production criteria.

“We’d have virtually the same regulations as in Champagne, if not more stringent,” said Roberts. Producers using Seyval Blanc, for example, would automatically be excluded.

In Cornwall, Camel Valley Vineyard says it would never adopt any such generic term. “We’ve spent 20 years getting to where we are today, and we wouldn’t want to be lumped together with wines of varying quality,” said owner Bob Lindo.

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