Wine: What’s in a name?

PUBLISHED: 17:25 13 July 2015 | UPDATED: 17:27 13 July 2015

Strawberry Hill Blanc de Noir

Strawberry Hill Blanc de Noir


When it comes to the world of wine, having the right name can do wonders for your popularity…

Strawberry Hill's vineyard owner Tim Chance, with manager Oliver Chance, and Sky News journalist, Isobel Webster (centre)Strawberry Hill's vineyard owner Tim Chance, with manager Oliver Chance, and Sky News journalist, Isobel Webster (centre)

In life, a name can mean so many things. Bonfire Night has always been problematic for me (penny for the Guy?), while some people just think they’re being clever (Good Food Guy? Nice one, ed!) You get my drift…

Names go in and out of fashion but they’re an interesting insight into the world we live in at the time, especially when it comes to food and drink. Ten years ago, Chardonnay was one of the UK’s fastest growing girls’ names. Those were the days when we were happily knocking back glasses of New World white that reeked of oak and looked worryingly like a granny’s urine sample, without a care in the world. How times have changed. Today, poor old Chardonnay has been relegated to Blue Nun status, Babycham even, only to be spoken about with a disdainful scrunching up of the nose and an accompanying shudder. Chablis, on the other hand, Chardonnay’s prettier, richer sister, is currently everyone’s best friend. I’ve yet to hear of a baby being named Chablis, but knowing how mad the world is, I bet it won’t be long. Top of my list for inclusion in the 2015 baby names list, however, has got to be Prosecco. This grape can do no wrong at the moment, even when it all too often tastes of dishwater and has all the complexity of a wet sponge. Whatever happened to Cava, with its feisty Spanish exuberance, and where has Champagne been hiding for the last few years?

However, if the fickle world of vinology is to be believed, Prosecco’s popularity may soon be on the way out. There’s a new kid on the block and it doesn’t even have a cute name – yet. English Sparkling Wine – let’s call it ESW for short – it’s not catchy, but my word it’s good stuff. They serve it at Westminster and Buckingham Palace and sales have gone through the roof. In fact, sales are up 55 per cent year on year with demand now far exceeding supply. It may even have a name to rival its contenders soon if the Duchess of Cornwall has anything to do with it – in 2013 she called for producers to come up with a new name for ESW that ‘had more depth’. HRH has got a point – sometimes the right name is all it takes to get oneself noticed. Suggestions on a postcard please…

The majority of ESW is produced, quite unsurprisingly, in Kent and Sussex where the soil and climate is similar to that of France. But we’ve got some pretty good contenders up here in the Cotswolds with the award-winning Strawberry Hill and Three Choirs vineyards, both in Newent, and Bow in the Cloud vineyard in Malmesbury. Strawberry Hill produces three sparkling wines, and has won Silver at the prestigious Decanter World Wine awards for two years running as well as a magnum-full of other awards, while Bow in the Cloud has supplied some of our fanciest local hotels and restaurants.

Now, I’m no wine connoisseur but I do enjoy a glass of champagne when the occasion calls for it and I’m telling you, the Strawberry Hill Blanc de Noir blew my socks off. Yes, it had a good amount of fizz, but if I had to bottle up the best things about an English summer’s day, this would be it. The good news is that last summer’s ‘heatwave’ (ok, let’s not get carried away – it’s just the first time in years that summer actually felt like summer) means that production figures for the 2014 harvest of ESW is a record breaker, up 42% on the previous year. Which means there’s more of our home-grown stuff to go round. More ESW anyone? Let’s hope we get a new name soon…

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