In these days of Brexit negotiations, what better way to kick off discussion of a soon-to-be treasured British produce than by discussing an EU Regulation. EU Regulation No 1151/2012 to be precise. This is the feisty fellow that said Feta has to be made in an obscure part of Greece, Roquefort in Roquefort, and so on.
In the wine world, the largest impact was on a type of bubbly wine, which had come to be synonyms with the region in which it had historically been made with most magnificence: the Champagne in France.
It is difficult to argue that, when this regulation was first enacted in 2012, it did not have a positive effect on being able to easily spot quality in the sparkling wine sector. Many other quality producers outside of the region were not using the “Champagne” name anyway (the Blanquette de Limoux, which claims to be the first festive wine producer, is a good example). “Sparkling wine” has, as a name, all the panache of buying jeans in Asda.
“Sparkling Wine” by itself was bad enough, but to most ears, and French ears in particular, calling something English Sparkling Wine was to mix mediocrity with mundanity. So when, in October 2015, a roundtable of experts voted some English sparkling wines above their French competitors in a blind tasting, some certainties were shaken. Shaken but not destroyed: there was only one Frenchman on the tasting board and the tasting was held, suspiciously, in a Hackney pub. But it was chaired by Jancis Robinson. And if there is a woman whom everyone involved in this blog loves nearly as much as their mothers and significant others it is she.
So despite, or perhaps due to, some lingering doubts, we went to see for ourselves. In the afternoon before a Bordeaux tasting in Brighton, we drove out to visit the scrappy upstarts of the sparkling wine game.