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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis

Frazer Thompson, managing director of New Wave Wines, the Kent-based owners of the Curious Grape and Chapel Down English wine brands, has confirmed that he has had preliminary discussions with three unnamed Champagne houses. Speaking at the annual English Wines Tasting at Vinopolis last Wednesday, Thompson told Harpers that one Champagne house had approached him and as a result of this interest, that he had approached two others. Asked about the nature of the talks, Thompson said that a number of topics of mutual interest had been discussed. He said that the UK is a vital export market for Champagne and the houses had noted the rise in sales of premium English wines, and particularly the interest in English sparkling wines such as Nyetimber and RidgeView. Thompson said that New Wave sales are up 40% and that the company is actively looking for new sources of grapes while land prices for potential vineyard sites in southern England are cheaper than sites in Champagne. He said: We're looking to acquire land, grow grapes and build brands. It is not a question of whether we do it, but the speed at which we do it. The UK market for Champagne is growing in terms of both value and volume and there are Champagne houses with no distribution here looking at how to break into the UK.' Thompson pointed out that Champagne houses are involved in making sparkling wines in many Southern Hemisphere/New World sites - so why shouldn't they look at England? It's only a few hours from Champagne and it's basically the same terroir,' said Thompson. He said: People order a "bottle of Bolly" because they want Bollinger and not just a bottle of any old Champagne. It's a global trademark. It's a big if, but there is no reason why we can't do something like that.' The English Wine industry is gearing up for English Wine Week (29 May-6 June), with numerous wineries set to offer tours, special tastings, events and offers. Special promotions are taking place in both the on- and off-trades with point-of-sale material bearing the message Think English - Drink English!'