I remember just before the London 2012 Olympics, there was a feeling of dread living in London. Clearly as we, the British, were putting it on it was going to be shit. We’re not flashy show-boaters with a penchant for all the razzmatazz that’s needed to put this stuff on and wow the watching world! Following years of post WW2 economic struggles and a slow slide out of the main power nations of the world, we’re a nation of self-deprecators. And it’s no different with our wine.
Funny though, the same thing that eventually happened with the Olympics is happening with our wine. In the same way the opening ceremony tugged at all our patriotic heart strings, and had us all clambering (in vain) for tickets, something weird is happening with UK wine too. First up, people are actually trying it and loving it. The international awards are flying in from round the globe. English Sparkling wines are knocking the greats of Champagne off their perch in blind tasting competitions. “Well of course it’s amazing”, the wine presses are all saying!
Price is an issue. Labour costs, land costs, and production costs involved with the traditional method of sparkling wine production mean that the sparkling wines are the same price (if not a tad higher) than those of Champagne. Champagne is the established brand, UK wine is the supposed upstart. Even with still wines you’re looking at not much change from £10 for an entry-level drinker. The cost conscious consumer will turn their nose up, regardless of the quality.
Is the biggest issue the British themselves? Ask 100 random Brits on the street what they’d prefer to have, Pinot Grigio from Veneto or Bacchus from the New Forest, and I’ll wager the Pinot Greege will come out on top. We don’t trust our own brand. We’re good at beer, fish and chips, and comedy. “Let’s leave the wine to the French” is still the overriding attitude. One that has English wine lovers, like myself, absolutely mystified.
Maybe with the advent of the great Robert Parker (he of the 100 point scale) eulogizing about the standard of Nyetimber recently, or the push to have Sussex wines given a PDO rating from the EU, will change some views.
I think it’ll be like the Olympics, where the rest of the world twigs about the standard of British wine well before us, and all of a sudden the tickets are sold out!
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Both photos were viewed on the Telegraph website