Kentish Wine vault

I’d love to get peoples opinion on this . Personally I think it’s a bad idea. How on earth, in a poor climatic year are enough grapes going to ripen to produce anywhere near enough wine but also, I think it’s quite arrogant to believe one has a “shot” at the existing prosecco market with a product which will in fact, by nature of the grapes and growing conditions be very different .
The other issue I have with this is the damage that will potentially be done to the reputations of existing traditional method English and Welsh sparkling wines .
It feels like a race to the bottom if it’s permitted to go ahead.


So perfectly in keeping with everything else in Britain circa 2023 then? :sunglasses:


And would you travel to a massive vault do drink English Prosecco? Surely, if it was at least a centre that highlighted a variety of producers + museum and such it would make some sense.

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£30m spent which has to be recouped somehow…

No chance of rivalling Prosecco for sheer quantity and pricing. As soon as the Italians start to feel an impact on their market share they will start shipping over the good stuff that costs €2-€3 a bottle there to wipe out any competition. The stuff one can buy here is dish water in comparison yet people pay at least 3 to 4 times the price for it :man_shrugging:


I’m impressed their PR person managed to make this into such a news story. It’s hardly novel. There’s several attempts at getting the prosecco market (and charmat fizz) already happening (Harlot anyone?), and they’re pretty dire (and from the few I’ve had, clearly chaptalised to smithereens).

It’s a lousy, but entirely unsurprising idea.


I can’t unsee that :hushed:


At least you’ve not tasted it.


Hi Leah I hope you are well
I think you and I are on the same page on this issue.
I will post a detailed opinion tomorrow…but rest assured I will be my usual blunt self…


The website is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.


It may not be to your taste but the issue is whether the secretary of state will give him permission and if so whether the great British public will buy his proposed 5m bottles of charmat.
More from me tomorrow

My 2 cents - I don’t have any philosophical issue with someone trying to produce Charmat fizz in England, there’s a market for everything. The issue is going to be how it is marketed, and as you say, potential confusion with traditional method sparkling wines.

Although there is a PDO for ESW, don’t think it has much public recognition and although I’m not across the detail, seems to leave the door open for similarly named products that don’t breach the PDO.

Despite the obvious much shorter production timelines for Charmat, they are still going to come up against the issue of crop yield, so it’s likely still going to be a more expensive product than Prosecco, just cheaper than traditional ESW. If and when they get to 5m bottles, we are talking fairly substantial distribution requirements (as a comparison, I think Nyetimber is at about 1m bottles currently, with an aim to double that by 2026). You can scale up Charmat a lot quicker, but you’ll be swimming with the sharks (the supermarkets) to sell it, and they will determine the price, unless it can build a very strong brand, which is highly questionable.

Even if they get it going, it could easily fall between two stools, will the mass of people who buy Prosecco in the UK be prepared to pay a premium for a British version in the same way that a much smaller demographic does for traditional method? I would think walking the walk will be a lot harder than talking the talk, but Mr Dixon is a very rich man and no doubt used to getting his own way, so we shall see.


This is the same company that’s behind Harlot . MDCV who have around 300h/a under vine in the U.K. They own a number of Provence rosé brands such as Berne etc…


Yes, while the wines aren’t particularly high end, Château de Berne is a luxury hotel & spa, a member of Relais & Châteaux. Seems to be Mark Dixon’s personal project (they have a few other properties down there), a bit of a change from how he made his money with Regus.


Open a wine centre and make charmant fizz? Sure, why not give it a shot. It could be profitable.

But the key attraction of Prosecco to wine merchants and consumers is price and volume with a recognisable brand, and to pretend English wine could ever be a serious rival is (to put it politely) nonsense.


Never been a fan of ESW and this would be the poorest style. However it sounds about right. The big boys moving in on an industry that has got too big for its boots!

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Ah, them. I’ve had a few of their other wines too, and found them awful (in fact Harlot was the nicest), as they have a vineyard (Kingscote, strong avoid on all their wines!) easily reachable from London on public transport.

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I don’t think the objections you make are valid in planning terms. The planning process is (generally) unconcerned with market issues and the viability of proposed projects.

I think the proposal will be won or lost on environmental issues, as the report suggests.

As far as the planning issue is concerned, Planning law was not my area of expertise, but I did have the odd brush with it in my legal career. My only comment is that as the planning officer recommended to the committee that it should be approved then that will help his appeal. My guess is that he has about a 65% chance of success. Objections to planning are very limited.

Moving onto the second issue about volume and style, I don’t know which varieties he is growing. My understanding is that he has already planted his vineyard.

At the moment the UK is producing an average of about 10-11 million bottles a year and I think about 65% is sparkling. 95% of that is traditional method. 2022 is going to be a bumper year for yield. I guess about 17 million bottles will be produced from last year’s crop. At the same time we are planting about 1.5m vines a year. We have not produced Charmat in this country in any volume precisely because, of the power of the Prosecco market. In terms of volume it dwarfs Champagne imports.

I watched a webinar in July 2020 in which Justin Howard-Sneyd, Stephen Skelton and Mark Harvey (along with a couple of others) discussed the then state of the UK wine market. JH-S had researched all the figures and concluded that we were over producing, and had about 10 years’ worth of unsold stock. Although demand has risen since then the figures published by WineGB still show substantial over production. By WineGB’s calculations in the last 3 years we have produced about 28m bottles and sold roughly 21.5m bottles. JH-S’s conclusion to UK wine producers was “don’t plant anymore vines.” Despite that, planting has roared ahead since 2020.

On that basis another 5 million bottles a year will flood an already very wet market.

Prosecco imports in 2022 stood at 131 million bottles that year, (not 80m as stated by Smith) an increase over the 121m in 2021. If Smith and Dixon think they can dent that market, good luck to them. They will have to sell through the supermarkets; they won’t sell anything like enough through cellar door sales to even break even. They will have a very hard time negotiating with the Tescos and Sainsbury’s of this world.

Like others who have already commented, I think this project will struggle. If it does not get planning permission then Kent Wine Vaults won’t find a winery with the capacity to contract make 5m bottles, or anything like that number.

One final point, if KWV make 5m bottles of Charmat that risks putting them in a dominant position in the market place, according to the Competition Act. I cannot recall the precise provisions of the Act, but in those circumstances you need to be careful about breaching the anti competitive terms in the Act.


As I posted earlier, agree with you about the need to engage the supermarkets. A little more digging indicates that MDCV is producing over 4m bottles a year (mostly at Chateau de Berne, and mostly rosé) in France, so they must have some experience of distribution at scale there. Their UK distributor is Bibendum, and that’s focused towards on-sales, so not a path to selling anything like 5m bottles in the UK market (and this isn’t going to be an export product anytime soon), they’d have to find other ways.

On the competition point, even if they achieved their 5m bottle dream, I couldn’t see the CMA taking much of an interest in this. Creating and dominating a market that didn’t exist (UK Charmat) wouldn’t be anti-competitive in itself, they would have to display anti-competitive behaviour such as using their dominant position to prevent further new UK Charmat producers from gaining market access. I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve had professional exposure to the CMA and this, combined with the likely legal argument that the “market” includes Prosecco (thus eliminating any possibility of dominance), would make any such investigation both unlikely and probably fruitless (any similarity with the wine they intend to produce is coincidental).


I’ve had English Charmat from Kingscote. Very unimpressed. I think they even shipped the grapes to Italy to be fermented or bottles!

If I recall, their traditional method ESW was actually decent.