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Chapel Down stunt “raises eyebrows” among the Champenois

Published:  13 June, 2023

English winery Chapel Down has loosed the cat among the proverbial pigeons in Reims ahead of English Wine Week, by going undercover as Champagne – and apparently beating the Champenois at their own game.

By going “incognito”, the Kent winery recently organised a blind taste test with locals and tourists “under the playful guise of Chapelle en Bas” – the literal translation of Chapel Down.

The result? According to Chapel Down, 60% of tasters said they preferred the English fizz. There were several “shocked faces and raised eyebrows” once the truth was revealed, Chapel Down reports, with descriptors such as “fresher” and “crisper” used in comparison to its Champagne counterpart.

The stunt/experiment certainly lit up Twitter, last night. The Champagne brand has not been officially announced. With this vital puzzle piece missing, many have dismissed the experiment, while others have called on English fizz to stop the comparisons and learn to stand on its own two feet. 

Amy Christine MW said: “It’s not good to be in constant comparison mode when you are from an up and coming region. Hence my eye roll when someone describes Sta. Rita Hills PN or Chard as Burgundian. It’s just not. But it’s an easy short cut for style, I guess.”

Others were more forgiving, dubbing it ‘The Judgement of Reims’. Harpers contributor Henry Jeffreys, among others, called it “huge fun”.

So, what was this show of (friendly?) rivalry all about? Proving English wine can stand against the best of ‘em; or generally taking a swipe at Champagne, with the added plus of doing it on its own turf?

According to Chapel Down, the ‘experiment’ was officially in honour of English Wine Week (17 to 24 June). Also, to challenge “outdated perceptions of [Champagne] being higher quality and making a better impression”.

Chapel Down chief marketing officer, Liam Newton, said: “The French know a thing or two about sparkling wine, with their centuries of winemaking heritage, so what better place than Champagne to sample our Chapel Down Brut? We are incredibly proud of the exceptional quality of our English sparkling wine, and it was great to have this affirmed by the French themselves. A 60% result like this propels us even further in changing the way the world views English wine.”