Champagne has long been considered the gold standard for celebratory drinks. Even its Italian counterpart Prosecco, whilst hugely growing in popularity, fails to enjoy quite the same reputation. How about English sparkling wines, however? Can homegrown products stand toe-to-toe with France's finest export?
Believe it or not, English sparkling wine actually predates champagne. The French monk Dom Pierre Perignon invented the beverage that bears his name in 1697. Christopher Merrett, a British scientist that hailed from the Cotswolds, first coined the term 'sparkling' in relation to wine in 1662.
Merrett was the first person to document secondary fermentation, or the addition of sugar and molasses to wines to enhance their carbonated quality. Visit the small town of Winchcombe and you'll find a plaque that memorialises this achievement.
The rivalry between English sparkling wine and champagne did not begin and end in the 17th Century, however. In the modern era, more and more UK-based consumers are turning their back on champagne in favour of sparkling wine brewed closer to home.
The lack of import duty provides a more appealing price point for English sparkling wine, and consumers have quickly realised that the product provides a treat for the palate comparable to that of champagne. A record 164m bottles were sold in 2018, with that number expected to continue a steady growth.
Despite growing domestic popularity, why is English sparkling wine not better regarded across the world? Perhaps its that cumbersome mouthful of a name. It feels somewhat devoid of glamor, especially compared to the way that an exotic overseas township tickles the tongue.
Debates continue to rage about what moniker should be bestowed upon the product, with suggestions including Winchecombe, Merrett, Swigod and Brit Fizz. Whatever name is eventually chosen, there is no denying that English sparkling wine is a premium product with plenty to offer. A magnum of homegrown fizz is sure to get any party or celebration off with a swing.