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Champagne has ‘left door open on quality’

Champagne producers have taken their eye off the ball and “left the door wide open on quality” according to one English sparkling wine producer.

Ian Kellett, owner of Hambledon in Hampshire
Ian Kellett, owner of Hambledon in Hampshire

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent tour of the Hambledon estate in Hampshire, owner Ian Kellett said: “There’s a lot of bad Champagne made. Champagne has left the door wide open on quality. It shouldn’t be possible for us to beat them at their own game.

“The name ‘Champagne’ will become a weakness in the future, what matters are brands like Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon.”

Kellett believes it’s impossible to compare English sparkling wine with Champagne as there is such variability in the quality of Champagne.

Rather than competing with other English sparkling wine producers, his aim is to take on, and beat, the Champenois.

“My competition isn’t other English producers ­– it’s important that we don’t fight each other. I’m putting a lot of money into the business and I predict that in 20 years English sparkling wine will have stolen 20% of Champagne’s market share.

His longterm goal is to make a million bottles of English fizz a year and export the brand to countries like Japan, the US and India. Last year he produced 130,000 bottles and is on course to make 200,000 this year.

Having invested £15m into Hambledon with his shareholders, he envisages the company will turn a profit in 2020.

During the visit, Kellett stressed the importance of England’s quality focused producers working together to collectively promote English sparkling wine.

“I believe that brands matter more than the name English sparkling wine at the moment. There are around 10 producers in the industry that are working really hard to push quality and are largely making wine from their own vineyards.

“You’re going to eventually see £10 English sparkling wine on sale in Aldi and Lidl. There are going to be plenty of players pulling the quality envelope down,” he warned.

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