We have been busy unpacking many new wines over the past few weeks as we work to refresh our wine list. There are plenty of new gems sitting on our shelves, but the wines that have stirred the most conversation are two sparkling wines from Hampshire – the Coates & Seely Rosé NV and the Coates & Seely Blanc de Blancs NV. The topic of debate isn’t the fact that these wines are English, because English wine has received a lot of press recently, and it is no secret that we are producing world-class sparkling wines. Rather, the conversation between our staff and customers has been centred on the fact that this wine is labelled as ‘Britagne’, the first wine we have stocked that is labelled in this way.
‘Britagne’ (pronounced brit-an-ya) is a proposed generic name for quality English sparkling wines. It is suggested that giving these wines a recognisable category name will attract consumers, convey the idea of quality, and allow the wines to be quickly referred to, as with Champagne, Italy’s Prosecco or Spanish Cava. “Britagne” was devised by Christian Seely, of Coates and Seely, who suggests that the word “draws from the tradition of 300 years of great Champenois winemaking, whilst remaining proudly British”. Seely also coined the term “Méthode Britannique” to describe the production method for these wines.
However, not everyone agrees with Seely’s choices, and debate over the names kicked off mid-way through last year when the Rosé Non Vintage was first released. Many people question how “proudly British” the name Britagne can be when it appears instantly to be French.
The other main candidate for the category name is “Merret”, which was trademarked by Mike Roberts of Ridgeview Wine Estate in Sussex. It was chosen to honour of Dr Christopher Merret, a 16th century scientist who studied the process of producing traditional method sparkling wine. “Merret” also has its detractors, especially those who suggest that Dr Merret was never himself a wine producer.
Others argue that a name change is not necessary, and that the money that would be spent marketing a new name would be better spent at the winery, investing in the quality of these wines. There are those that also fear a generic name could have the opposite intended effect – just as Cava and Sekt do not exactly conjure up immediate thoughts of luxury and quality, so too might the poorer examples of English sparkling wines taint the name “Britagne”.
As for our own opinions here at the store, Joel is concerned that Britagne may result in some confusion:
“The French associations of the word Britagne could result in confusion about the wines origins for consumers abroad, and even those at home! How about recognising the regions these wines come from? In this case, Hampshire Sparkling Wine.”
Celia sees some merit in Merret:
“I would prefer the name Merret, if the story is true. It has a link to English history and has a distinctly English ring to it.”
Monika recognises the need for a category name, but is firmly in the “anything but Britagne” camp:
“Britagne looks too similar to Champagne, and it is inevitable that it will be pronounced wrong. Champagne sounds French, Prosecco sounds Italian… Whatever name is chosen has to be completely original, and instantly, identifiably English.”
What do you think? Are either Britagne or Merret viable options? Is there a better name out there? Or should we stick with English Sparkling Wine. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.