Country Life magazine carried an editorial last week on the ramifications of Brexit for British farmers, rightly stating there are possible pros as well as cons involved.
One upside, I suspect tongue in cheek, was the looming opportunity of describing our homegrown sparkling wines "British Champagne". Let's hope that nobody with influence believes this a good idea.
Firstly, it presupposes that we would want to opt out of recognising genuine, regional protections for food and drink, which British farmers and producers themselves rely on, such as Jersey Royal potatoes, Cumberland sausages, Stornoway black pudding, Dorset Blue cheese, Kentish ale or Scotch whisky. The initial cut-and-paste job of putting European Union legislation on to our statute book will presumably carry over the recognition of these and other products, but how they're to be affected by leaving the single market or customs union is anyone's guess. It's surely not worth our while to abrogate these protections. For what gain? Cocking a snook at Champagne producers, who send more of their wine to us than any other country? It's madness.
Secondly, it misses the point our own industry has been trying to make for years: our sparkling wines are homegrown, they are not Champagne imitations. They may use the same traditional method, most of the better examples use the same trio of grapes, but there is enough excellence and differentiation for English sparkling wine to stand proudly on its own. Hence the (pretty ponderous) attempts to come up with a new "brand" for English sparkling wine. Hence the genuine and growing global interest in our leading producers. We are, I sense, turning something of a corner when it comes to public recognition of English sparkling wine. Fewer hosts at gatherings where English wines are being poured now proffer "another glass of Champagne" [sic].
Thirdly, and pertinently, regional protections such as Champagne make perfect sense. Champagne is an ancient, recognised region of France going back to Norman times, its wine production more recent but still Medieval. And it produces a distinctive sparkling wine, universally known by the name of the region whence it came.
It would also shoot in the foot the well-intentioned and correct efforts to modify or simply nullify the illogical sort of EU-level protectionism, such as efforts by Italian Prosecco producers to stop Australian Prosecco producers from so describing their sparkling wines.