01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

The Society's Community

Issues regarding English Fizz


but a lot of these people aren’t customers of anything more than the tourist visit…

Most of us on here would visit due to our love of wine but you must remember a lot of the visitors are just tourists and You are charged to visit a museum / attraction so why not for a visit to a winery/vineyard etc ?

I do agree with @peterm that it removes any obligation to buy and if I do purchase (at a certain value) then the fee should be waived


regarding your second gripe - the analogy is not the same…

In an art gallery I can view the artwork with the owner having incurred no cost - each time I taste a sample of wine the producer incurs a cost (loss of sale of one bottle - albeit a marketing cost)

Having visited vineyards in France for more than 15 years now I can say it has, in the main, moved to a pay experience…they key being experience. The days of rocking up, couple of samples and an abientot have pretty much gone. Now there is some form of visitor centre (this was a major consideration/part of Ch Beychevelle’s new facility), dedicated “tour” staff and a more professional sales outlet (like the museum gift shop) - for some visitors it is having visited the famous producer that is of greatest interest.

That said, some producers see this as a brand awareness / loyalty activity and there is no charge (or one to put casuals off) and no expectation to purchase…normally these are private and by appointment.


and in the in the wine world…at Cos d’Estournel

THE MAHARAJAH TREASURES Private tour from 2 to 3 hours with a tasting of 6 wines

  • Les Pagodes de Cos 2009, Second Wine of Cos d’Estournel
  • Cos d’Estournel through 4 legendary vintages: 1982, 2003, 2005, 2009
  • Cos d’Estournel Blanc 2011PRICE
    From 1 to 6 people: €1500 From 7 to 10 people: €1700


Denbies may be rather atypical, as I believe their aim is to cater for the coachload, and the age profile of those tends to be higher than average.

Not all wineries are set up to receive casual visitors, and that includes probably the majority of crémant producers in Burgundy. I have visited one but had to pay. I don’t generally have a big interest in Crémant de Bourgogne, as many are drearily pedestrian, though good ones certainly do exist. Conversely, if you visit Alsace (another major crémant producing area) you will likely get a free tasting if the place is open, which it may not be if you didn’t book ahead.

I guess what I am saying is that these things vary from place to place, even within a country. The business has to make a profit, and people arriving by coach frequently leave without buying anything at all.

Round this way (Hampshire), tha majority of producers do co-operative tastings. They will take it in turns each year to host an event, where all the other producers will attend. You can then taste every wine on offer, which is almost always every wine they make and have for sale. Since they also arrange various local artisan food producers too, as well as the usual hog-roast etc., along with guided tours of the host winery, then I would regard the £10 it costs as money well spent.

On the pricing model, most of the points have already been well made. Mostly it is the market at work, and English producers would be foolish to get in a race to the bottom such as happened with Prosecco. Though one point not mentioned so far is that fruit yields in the UK are substantially lower than from the other areas mentioned. For example in 2016 and 2017, average yields were around 4.5 tonnes/ha, which is generally reckoned to be below what you need to be economically viable.


I can only speak of what I know on this, when my cousin some years ago was the vineyard manager here…


the visitors certainly did buy bottles of wine, I think many look upon it as a souvenir of the visit, rather like buying a toy donkey in Benidorm ! they were doing food then at the winery and if you click the link you can see they now charge for everything that moves, it is part of their business model, and they are fortunate that the vineyard/winery is in such a picturesque site.
Without that extra income they would struggle though it does look now with all the ‘extras’ that the visit part of the business is just or maybe more important than the wine ? also notice that they are also doing a sparkler now,


That’s a good point you have, Peter. And James. of course you’re right as well.
I was only looking at it from a purist/wino’s point of view. Completely forgot about the tourist!


Thanks Leah! :slight_smile:
I stand by those points and add a few more on top of what has been discussed:

  • It may be surprising to know that of the most well-known/prestigious ESWs only a small few are actually breaking-even in these early days and some are still being heavily subsidised. It’s not cheap to start a winery and plant vineyards and it can take decades to make that money back.
  • so many are expanding and building bigger wineries and planting more vineyards, in order to keep up with demand. Not start-up costs this time, rather investment for expansion. This too is sucking any profits down the drain for the next 10 year’s or so!
  • some wineries are making their money from all the other things they offer, not the wine! So the on-site restaurant, tours and sometimes other produce (beer, cider etc) are what’s actually keeping them afloat. Hence paying for tours in many (admittedly not all) cases.
  • prosecco is not the competition, rather Champagne. I would have a bottle of Nyetimber/Hambledon/Ridgeview/Camel Valley fizz rather than Veuve or Möet etc any day of the week. Therefore they are competitive because they are better quality than their champagne equivalents. Grower champagne is perhaps more similar in quality to ESW than many Grande Marques.
  • I take the point about it not mattering about all the effort if it doesn’t taste good and I 100% agree because if what’s in the glass isn’t good then what’s the point!? The thing is though that many of them are absolutely delicious.
  • In a more extreme yet very similar way, comparing ESW to Prosecco is like wondering why Chateau Batailley is more expensive than £8 Chilean Cabernet. It’s a different category.

Not sure any of that helps but good points raised by everyone and made for a good read!

I’m off back to my Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2015 now. It’s delicious!


I have no problem paying tasting room fees. In fact in some ways I prefer it as I feel it absolves me from needing to buy stuff I don’t like.

But when we visited Chapel Down, you got a couple of basic wines (in a nasty little straight-sided plastic glasses) free, and then there was no way to pay to taste any more without going on the vineyard tour that we didn’t particularly want. Something about licensing restrictions - which I didn’t for a moment believe. That was some time ago, so it might have changed


Other issue about tastings is they cost the winery more than just the cost of the wine.

Biggest cost must be for staff behind the counter, with cover for holidays, sick leave etc.
Plus fitting out the venue, counter, glasses, glass washer, fridge for white wines, spittoons, cleaning, licence (?).

If they’re going to do it, then it worth doing properly. Offering tastings in tiny plastic cups does no favours to the wine or the winery…

Chapel Hill in Australia or Hungary, or Chapel Down in Kent?


“Hill” now edited to read “Down”.


It comes down to personal taste, but I have NEVER EVER had a decent ESW at any price - and god knows I have tried - the latest failure was TWS esp @ £21 which was pretty awful to be honest. I have also NEVER had a decent Champagne at that price point.

Price for ESP will remain high - an unavoidable combination of UK land / labour / production costs. I only wish the quality was better. I imagine that climate change, brexit, and vine age will all help improve the picture - and I sincerely hope it works out eventually.

This Xmas, the Famille Lapin enjoyed both TWS brut (which is always good) and Veuve Cliquot bought a couple of years back (much improved with extra maturity). And that is where my taste rests currently. Sadly, around £30. And I would be happy to pay that for ESW if they could produce an equally excellent bottle as the VQ we drank this xmas.


Taste and pleasure are entirely subjective! Not liking something doesn’t make it not decent but I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the Exhibition ESW. It’s a popular choice with many members and I feel it hits the mark nicely. :champagne::clinking_glasses:


Also, worth mentioning that Brexit is more likely a hindrance than a help to UK wine growers since all the equipment right down to the steaks in the vineyards for the trellising wire comes from the EU. Any weakness to the pound will only increase the price of English wines due to the cost of making them going up.


Stakes, not steaks!! Woops! :joy:


That’s quite a claim! But as you say, boils down to personal taste. I had some fantastic ESW, and some awful Champagne. I had some great Cremant, and occasionally a delicious Cava. But like anything in wine-world (or aesthetics in general), beauty is in the palate of the taster. :blush:


@lapin_rouge – I’m with @Freddy and @Inbar
I love good sparkling wine and I think the current ESW is world class, while I have no problem with accepting that it doesn’t do it for you.

But it does it for others

Camel Valley ESW was selected by British Airways for service in First Class last year, which is a measure of how it is respected.

ESW specialist Ridgeview won Wine Maker of the Year 2018 at International Wine & Spirit Competition, the first time since the competition started 49 years ago that there has been a British winner.

We have sparkling wine at least once a week, usually Champagne, but also Cava and more frequently now ESW.


I may just have to “pop” by on those days…:blush:.
We used to do “Champagne Tuesdays” for no other reason than we had no kids (at the time), we enjoyed it and we have a dog… (Basically for no good reason.!) I feel I need to introduce a Sparkling wine day of the week . You have inspired me @peterm!!


I don’t agree re the two most recent ones I’ve had, though I have had ones a while back that haven’t been great.

Not sure how Brexit will improve this (or indeed almost anything)?


I tried 15 different ESWs last year. Only one of them was mediocre. The rest were excellent. A couple were even sublime…


I like this comment enough that I feel simply clicking the “like” heart doesn’t do it justice! Woop! :ok_hand::+1: