International fizz behemoth Henkell-Freixenet says that its purchase of the UK’s Bolney Wine Estate could be the beginning of a glorious future for English sparkling wine.
‘If things go well, we could be looking at a category in ten years’ time that’s as well thought of as sekt,’ said managing director Hermann von Sparkl.
‘Or even cava.’
Bolney, which isn’t even a household name in the Sussex village where it is based, currently makes 12 cases of sparkling wine a year, plus three bottles of experimental gooseberry liqueur.
A spokesman for Henkell-Freixenet said the estate would fit perfectly into their pan European portfolio of multi-million bottle megabrands, and would have ‘a key strategic role.
‘ Specifically in ensuring that the directors had something decent to drink during board meetings’.
Henkell-Freixenet, he added, ‘had a strong record in spotting exceptional terroir.
‘And then ignoring it.’
Baked in success
Despite the booze behemoth’s reassurances, the industry has been sceptical of its intentions.
Some sparkling wine producers have raised concerns that Henkell might be using Bolney as a base from which to revive the downmarket British Carbonated Wine style.
There are rumours, too, of a new sparkling/cava/sekt hybrid, provisionally called English Cakt.
But the government has been delighted by the move, saying it is proof that the new light-touch regulation of post Brexit Britain is attractive to foreign investors.
‘Britain is very much open for business,’ said prime minister Eton Twatt. ‘And with the atmosphere of venality, backstabbing, pointless bureaucracy and insane pricing we’re hopeful of pulling in more Champagne producers over the coming years.’
Not one of us
However, Mainley Posh-Boyes, chairman of the Sparkling Producers of English Wine (SPEW) said that there were serious concerns that this could be the start of a wave of sell-offs to unsuitable new owners.
‘There’s no way that people like this should be part of the English Sparkling Wine world,’ he told Fake Booze. ‘Not least because they know far too much about wine.
‘It’s time to get back to the city boys, retired colonels, gentleman farmers and bored aristocrats who have made this industry what it is.
Read here about how last year’s English Wine Week was saved by the weather