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Delhi Wine Club
British ‘Champagne’ may be named as ‘Britagne’

Posted: Tuesday, 05 July 2011 10:27

British ‘Champagne’ may be named as ‘Britagne’

The recent release of a sparkling wine from the British producer Coates and Seely as ‘Britagne’ with a hope to give this as a generic name for the British bubblies in future, has already started a debate at home in England but it would be curious to see if champagne producers register a strong protest through the European Union, else how they might object to Zampa in India naming their bubbly as Zampagne, wonders Subhash Arora

When Nashik based Zampa introduced the bubbly 2-3 years ago in India, it announced that it would be labeled as Zampagne- a name similar to Champagne. But by the time the product was released, it was Zampa brut. Rumour had it that the company had been obliged to re-consider its decision and it chose the mundane label Zampa Brut instead despite the ready labels with the earlier name selected- just like others including Sula and Vinsura.

Christian Seely, MD of the wine division of AXA Millésimes which includes the Second Growth Chateaux Pichon-Longueville in Bordeaux and the premier Port house Quinta do Noval in Porto is also the co-founder of Coates and Seely which brought out the ‘Britagne’ from C &S. He believes that the English sparkling wine should have its own generic name to earn it more prestige because of its ever improving quality (and eventually higher premium).

Launching their first wine a few days ago- the sparkling rosé made from the champagne grapes -65% Pinot Noir and 35% Pinot Meunier, Seely and co-founder Nicholas Coates admitted, according to Decanter that it was their dream to see people walking into a bar and asking for a glass of Britagne in the future, howsoever distant.

English sparklers have won accolades and a clutch of international awards and the admiration of a growing army of drinkers, but the wine makers still feel the drink lacks some fizz- a catchy name, according to Telegraph.

Although,  it seems unlikely that there would be an agreement on this generic name in the  next few years within the UK producers, their French neighbours in Champagne might not take kindly to the use of a name  sounding similar even though “Britagne” is proposed to be pronounced as “brit-an-yuh” , similar to Britannia, rather than Champagne in the UK. Ironically, in French champagne is pronounced as ‘brit-an-yuh’. To put salt on the wound, the Brits hope to call the process of second fermentation in the bottle as ‘Méthode Britannique’. Only Champagne is authorized to use Méthode Champenoise while others are obliged to choose other terms like Methode Traditionelle or Cape Classique in South Africa.

Reactions from the established English sparkling wine producers have been diverse. Although leading UK sparkling wine producers Nyetimber and Ridgeview reportedly agree that there should be a category name, they do not appear comfortable with ‘Britagne’. They also feel that the English sparkling wine industry is still in its infancy and it’s too early for a category or selecting a name.

Ridgeview stamps its brand on the golden capsule like most Champagnes. It is unlikely to replace it with any other generic name and miss out on the brand statement value on the capsule. It is also doubtful that other producers would like C&S to grab the advantage of initial usage of Britagne after it is perceived as a competitor’s existing brand.

Ridgeview would like to see ‘Merret’ used as the generic term, named after the English physician and scientist who was the first to document the addition of sugar for the production of sparkling wine.  It already owns the copyright for the term and uses it for its own products, but envisages it being a publicly owned trademark used by accredited producers meeting strict production criteria. 

It would be interesting to see how far Britagne goes in terms of being adopted as a generic name or if Zampagne would come back into the market if Champagne does not take any action against the Britagne label.  But most wine drinkers in India would call a Britagne or Zampagne also Champagne despite all the efforts of champagne producers.  They would also call a Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco, German Sekt or a South African Cap Classique - Champagne.

Interestingly, the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla (previously Parker Bowles) , wife of Prince Charles had suggested a few weeks ago that the British sparkling wine was so good that it should be called Champagne, according to Telegraph.

The Indian wine lovers of bubblies won’t mind calling the English sparkling wine as Champagne too.


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