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Do Not Sneer-British Fizz is Here

Posted: Monday, 23 January 2017 12:42


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Do Not Sneer-British Fizz is Here

Jan 23: After several earlier attempts to name the increasingly popular English Sparkling Wine, there is now renewed effort to get ‘British Fizz’ international recognition even as the well-known wine expert Steven Spurrier and now also an English Sparkling Wine producer feels it is a bit of misnomer, writes Subhash Arora who suggests Indian producers should start thinking of classifying their sparklers perhaps as ‘Dessi Fizz’ as an increasing number joins the effervescent family

Click For Large ViewIt may not be the most magical or memorable name but coined by a bar owner in New York City for his wine list of English sparkling wine, “British fizz” is getting ready for official international recognition with protected geographical indication (PGI) status. Once awarded, it will continue to enjoy the recognition even after UK leaves the EU when Article 50 kicks in because of Brexit.

English wine is made by more than 500 vineyards and the production has risen from 3 million bottles in 2011, to 5 million in 2015 and could touch 10 million by 2020. Most of the trade is with China and Canada with increasing interest from USA. Sparkling wines from Sussex received a regional geographical protection last year after sparklers from the county beat champagnes in a blind tasting. But the sparkling wine producers have been searching for the last 20 years to find a suitable name.

Suggestions from winemakers in the UK have ranged from Britagne, simply synthesising Britain+ Champagne, to Merret, in honour of English scientist Dr. Christopher Merret, who was the first person to document his advice on adding sugar to produce sparkling wine, about 30 years ahead of Dom Perignon. 

After several debates and deliberations it was clear that neither name would stick and both were dropped. British Fizz, on the other hand is the flavour of the day despite a lukewarm response by several industry professionals and opposition by Wine and Spirits Traders Association (WSTA), who term it a mere Side Show at the present time, even though they agree it is important to have a simple catch-all phrase to promote English Sparkling Wine exports. The response from various wine stakeholders has not been very positive either.

Well-known British wine expert Steven Spurrier now also manages the winery owned by him and his wife and makes Bride Valley sparkling wines. He says, ‘My take on English Sparkling Wine being named British Fizz in the US is to ignore it. I certainly don’t intend to use it.  The main label of Bride Valley states Fine English Wine and it is quite plain that it is sparkling just by the bottle.  The back label has to state English Sparkling Wine, which is what it is. 

‘It’s quite normal for anything coming from the British Isles to be known as British, but these wines come from England, a tiny amount from Wales notwithstanding. There are no vineyards in Scotland, or in Northern Ireland. Therefore, British Fizz is actually a misnomer’,  he tells delWine, adding ‘however, once our Bride Valley 2014 sparkling wines are in the US thanks to Jean-Charles Boisset (California producer and US Distributor who was in India a couple of days ago to promote his wines for export to India) and if someone says it’s “the best British Fizz I’ve tasted”,  I wouldn’t be unhappy!’

Christopher Walkey, Founder of Glass of Bubbly LTD. agrees with Steven. He feels British Fizz is a bit too loose a term. ‘I think it is more of a description than a name. Fizz is used frequently in the wine industry and any gaseous drink from Cola to Water so there could be massive legal costs to protect it.  Why not stick with what has practically stuck already-English Sparkling Wine? Within our magazine, Glass of Bubbly, English Sparkling Wines have featured many times. We and our Advertisers classify them as English Sparkling Wine on each occasion. Any other term, such as Fizz or Bubbly is used only as a descriptive term within a title,’ says Christopher Walkey.

‘I would think that a new word altogether would be the best way forward. I did hear Bubleigh or similar word floating around not long ago and I think a name like that would be far stronger and UK can protect the name,’ he adds ‘with consumers is where the name really needs to get.’

London-based Susan Hulme MW believes the English sparkling wine is excellent and should have a more exotic name. She tells delWine, ‘British Fizz as a name is not bad but I think it is too prosaic. We need something much better to reflect the very high quality of the wines on offer. We are making some really exceptional quality sparkling wine that rival Champagne- producers like Camel Valley, Nyetimber and Hattingley Valley Wines to name but a few. Even Champagne houses like Taittinger, have recently invested in UK vineyards. Our quality is very exciting and we need a more exciting and sophisticated name to reflect that.’ 

Click For Large ViewBob Lindo is the founder of the Camel Valley and his son Sam Lindo is the winemaker and also the Chairman of the United Kingdome Vineyard Association (UKVA). Sam is quite impressed with the term and says he is preparing documents to register ‘British Fizz’ as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) through UKVA. This would mean that grapes must be grown in UK and the second fermentation must be in the bottle- Traditional Method. Currently, the term ‘British Wine’ refers to wine made in Great Britain from imported grape juice concentrate. ‘English Wine’ and ‘Welsh Wine’ are the protected terms for wine made and grown in England and Wales respectively.

‘No one’s ever going to agree on the name so maybe we have to roll with the name that people already use and protect that name before we lose it. The name is a way to protect the industry and uninformed consumers from producers importing grape juice concentrate to ferment and then market it as 'British wine', despite not being made with British grown grapes,’ said Sam.

Robert Joseph is Britisher who has been in the wine business as a journalist, consultant, writer, author and organiser of several international wine competitions. He is now also producing Le Grand Noir still wines in South of France, which have been introduced in India through Sula Vineyards as the importers. He gives a different view of the situation.

‘I agree with the people who have said that British Fizz will never take off. Most invented terms have failed apart from Cava,’ he tells delWine candidly. “ But my understanding is that the rationale behind registering “British Fizz” as sparkling wine is to block the producers of so called “British“ wine from moving into sparkling wine,’ (Indian wine connoisseurs who are aware of the “Goan” Ports must be aware of the dilemma) he explains.

‘This old category is an anomaly in being produced in the UK from imported heaps concentrate. Few UK commentators ever refer to “British" wine but it remains a highly profitable sector at the bottom end of the price scale,’ he clarifies. Even British sparkling wine on a bottle only means the wine is fermented and bottled in Britain, but from cheap grape juice, imported from overseas.”

Britagne vs. Zampagne

Click For Large ViewIt is interesting to note that when erstwhile Zampa, now Grover Zampa Vineyards (GZV) decided to introduce sparkling wine in 2009 and announced Zampagne as the label, it was obliged to retract and change the name to Zampa Soiree Brut, due to a possible ‘nudge’ from the then CIVC- the official body of champagne producers.

Around the same time, Christian Seely, the British MD of AXA which owns Bordeaux Second Growth Pichon- Longueville, co-owner of Coates & Seely, did introduce Britagne which is made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, in UK where second fermentation occurs in bottles under a rigorously followed process. Such wines will be designated as being made under the 'Méthode Britannique’. Naturally, other producers are cool towards the name as C & S would automatically have a competitive advantage.

It remains a mystery how Britagne continue to sell with its name on the golden capsule as with most champagnes while Zampagne, launched within a few months of Britagne was not given this benefit supposedly because the produces chose not to go ahead with the name and settled for Zampa Soiree NV and Zampa Soiree Rose NV.

It might be too early for the Indian sparkling wine producers to think of a name for the category-Indian Sparkling Wine would not leave a mark on any bubbly drinker, but ‘Dessi Fizz’ may well be the name that the producers can promote. With all of them using Chenin Blanc for their sparkling wines they can even lobby for a minimum of 70-85% Chenin Blanc grown within a certain area and keep the second fermentation in the bottle to a minimum of say 18-24 months.

Here then is a toast to the British Fizz and the Dessi Fizz- Jai Ho!!

Here are some of the related Articles:

Le Grand Noir enters India in Style Sula

Steven Spurrier Sparkles in Napa with Bride

British ‘Champagne’ may be named as ‘Britagne’

Zampa on Collision Course with Champagne

Subhash Arora

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Tags : British Fizz, Steven Spurrier, Brexit, British wine, Sussex, Britagne, Merret, Dr. Christopher Merret, Bride Valley, English Sparkling Wine, Bride Valley 2014, Jean-Charles Boisset, Christopher Walkey, Glass of Bubbly LTD, Susan Hulme MW, Camel Valley, Nyetimber, Hattingley Valley Wines, Bob Lindo, Sam Lindo, Vineyard Association UKVA, British Wine, English Wine, Welsh Wine, Robert Joseph, Le Grand Noir, Sula Vineyards, Zampa, Grover Zampa Vineyards, Zampagne, Zampa Soiree Brut, Christian Seely, AXA, Coates & Seely, Méthode Britannique, Dessi Fizz


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