First it was the return of imperial measurement to sell fruit and vegetables. Now in the latest “Brexit dividend” Britons may be able to buy pint bottles of champagne — that is if the French are prepared to sell them that way.
Before the UK joined the EU it has been claimed that 60 per cent of all champagne sold in the country was in imperial pint-sized bottles.
Winston Churchill once declared that a pint bottle of champagne was the “ideal size”, calling it “enough for two at lunch and one at dinner”.
But when the single market was set up weights and measurements were harmonised to metric across the EU to make labelling clearer and easier to sell products across different markets.
Now the government has its sights on a symbolic lifting of the ban that could once again see pints of champagne — or more likely English sparkling wine — on the shelves.
A government source told The Telegraph, which first reported the story, that using pints would be good for consumers.
“Pint-sized bottles were a victim of the EU’s war against imperial measurements, which are widely used and understood in this country,” they said. “Now we’ve left the EU, we can rid ourselves of rules like this. Work is underway in government to make this change happen.”
The Rathfinny Estate, which produces sparkling wine in Sussex, laid down 800 pint-sized bottles in the wake of the UK voting Leave, although the winemaker had been campaigning for the return of the “modern pint” long before Brexit. Rathfinny hopes to release this batch of its wine late next year if the ban is repealed in time.
Mark Driver, co-owner of the winemaker, said: “If this change in legislation is forthcoming, this is great news and something we have been lobbying hard for.”
He argued that the pint bottle is the perfect size for two people to share, as it offers four glasses, which is more easily divisible than the three glasses offered by a half bottle. It is also two glasses less than the six glasses contained in a standard bottle, which could reduce alcohol consumption.
Churchill once said that his wife Clementine “thinks that a full bottle is too much for me, but I know that half a bottle is insufficient to tease my brains”. The compromise of the pint “pleases everyone, even the producer”, he concluded.
Brexiteer MPs also welcomed the plan suggesting that English pints of English wine would have a marketing advantage and could become a best-seller worldwide as well as at home. “If you are an optimist, you go through life believing the glass is half full, rather than half empty,” Mark Francois, chairman of the European Research Group of MPs, said. He urged ministers to allow British vintners to go “even further and offer to make the pint glass full to the brim” with sparkling wine.
The price of vintage champagne is up more than a third so far this year with top-end ranges like Dom Pérignon 2008 and Krug 2000 proving particularly popular.
This is the best performance ever for the sector with the price of vintage brands like Salon 2002 rising 80 per cent, Louis Roederer’s Cristal Rose is up 60 per cent and Dom Perignon 2008 up 46 per cent.
Investors have sought out the relatively steady bet of the fine wine market over recent years as customers celebrate special occasions, while a surge in demand and limits in supply have inflated prices this year in particular.
Just this month a rare bottle of Perrier Jouët 1874 sold for almost £43,000 at an auction with general demand growing particularly strongly in the US.
“It’s been remarkable,” said Justin Gibbs, co-founder of Liv-ex, an online exchange for wine. “The market is on a tear.”