Weekly Wrap: Champagne Taittinger to make English sparkling wine, Kumala backs "Beefy" Botham

Here's an extended version of the Weekly Wrap of food and drink stories I produce for the Q Awards, which includes the Quality Food and Quality Drink Awards.


This week has seen news of a unique Franco/Anglo partnership as Champagne Taittinger becomes the first Champagne house to invest in and buy land to grow wine in the UK. We also have news of Sir Ian Botham's latest charity walk, this time fuelled by the support of South African wine brand, Kumala, how the use of supermarket shopping bags have slumped since the introduction of a 5p charge, the never ending rise of the coffee shop and new research looks at consumer attitudes to organic food and wine . Richard Siddle is once again our guide for the Q Awards Weekly Wrap.


Champagne Taittinger to make English sparkling wine in Kent

"This is all ours.." Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger (left) with Patrick McGrath, MD of Hatch Mansfield

"This is all ours.." Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger (left) with Patrick McGrath, MD of Hatch Mansfield

Champagne Taittinger has become the first Champagne house to buy land and vines in the UK to make English sparkling wine.  It has teamed up with its UK distributor and partner, Hatch Mansfield, and private investors to buy 69 hectares of farmland in Kent of which 40 hectares will be used to grow wines from the same grapes used to make Champagne.

The quality of English sparkling wine has attracted international interest for some years with a number of Champagne houses reportedly interested in investing and making their own wine in the UK. But Champagne Taittinger is the first to put its head on the line.

It has acquired the land at Stone Stile Farm in Chilham, Kent and will work with its own viticulturists as well as renown English winemaker and consultant, Stephen Skelton MW, to plantChardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the classic Champagne grape varieties. The vineyard will be 80 metres above sea level and on chalk soil with south facing slopes, ideal conditions for such grape varieites.

The farm is owned by the Gaskain family, long established Kent fruit farmers, who will continue to grow quality apples, pears and plums next to the Domaine.

But we will have to wait a good eight years before we get chance to taste any of the wine. The land has to be transformed from a current apple orchard before planting vines in 2017. The first fruit for winemaking will be available in 2020, and then bottled in 2021.

The site is to be known as Domaine Evremond, named after Charles de Saint-Evremond (1614-1703), who is thought to be first true ambassador for Champagne, and although a Frenchman became popular in England during the court of Charles II. He is buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, president of Champagne Taittinger, said: “We have dreamt for a number of years of working with our dear friends in the UK to create a special Franco/British project.  Built on the values of friendship, this venture will create something special to show our appreciation of the UK support for Champagne – it is Champagne Taittinger’s number one export market. We are very excited that this dream is now becoming a reality.

He added: “We believe we can produce a high quality English sparkling wine drawing on our 80 years of winemaking expertise. Our aim is to make something of real excellence in the UK’s increasingly temperate climate, and not to compare it with Champagne or any other sparkling wine.

Patrick McGrath MW, managing director of Hatch Mansfield said of the opportunity: “As a team, we have a real belief in the potential of English sparkling wine. Our aim is not just to be an English sparkling winemaker, but also to be a significant supporter of the whole English wine industry.”


Supermarket shoppers come armed bags to save the 5p charge

The introduction of a 5p per bag charge in England has transformed consumer behaviour

The introduction of a 5p per bag charge in England has transformed consumer behaviour

The number of plastic bags used by Tesco customers in England has been slashed by nearly 80% since the introduction of a 5p charge by the Government last month.

Customers shopping online at Tesco.com have also drastically  reduced the number of bags used, with the number of shoppers selecting ‘bagless’ deliveries up by nearly 50%

The drop in bag use in-store by Tesco customers is 10% greater than the retailer anticipated before the charge was introduced.

“We knew the Government’s bag charge would encourage our customers to use fewer plastic bags and it’s clearly had a huge impact,” said Rebecca Shelley, Tesco’s group communications director.

“We wanted to do as much as we could to help our customers avoid paying the charge – the week before the charge was introduced we gave out free bags for life, and we’ve been sharing helpful hints and tips on how customers can cut down the number of bags they use."

The retailer is using the money raised by the bag charge to go towards local charities, who can apply for grants up to £12,000.

Asda, meanwhile, has also reported an overall reduction in single-use carriers across Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland by more than 90% and has spent more than £1m raised by the charge on charitable causes.

The environment minister, Rory Stewart, said: “I’m really delighted that the 5p plastic bag charge is starting to have a real impact and is raising thousands for good causes.

“Cutting the number of plastic bags we use is a small but vital step in reducing plastic waste. It will not only tidy up our towns and countryside, it will also help protect our precious beaches and sea life.”


South Africa's Kumala wine supports "Beefy" Botham charity walk

Sir Ian Botham, centre, is walking across South Africa to raise money for leukaemia research 

Sir Ian Botham, centre, is walking across South Africa to raise money for leukaemia research 

Kumala is the official wine sponsor of Sir Ian Botham’s latest charity walk through South Africa.

The eight day trek, dubbed ‘Beefy Walking the Rainbow Nation’,  started this week at Llandudno beach, Western Cape, and will finish in Pretoria.

During the walk, which is to raise funds for a number of South African charities, Sir Ian will celebrate his 60th birthday, and also the 30th anniversary of his first ever walk from John O’Groats to Lands End when he raised over £1m to aid research into leukaemia and lymphoma.

Throughout the latest walk, which started on December 9th,  Kumala, which is South Africa’s best selling wine brand,  will be holding wine tastings for the walkers, sponsors and spectators. Wine willalso be available for purchase.

“Kumala is delighted to be partnering with Beefy on his walk of the Rainbow Nation,” said Paul Schaafsma, global chief executive officer of Accolade Wines, Kumala’s parent company. “The tireless work that Sir Ian continues to do through his Foundation has raised over £13 million (R279 million) to date.”


Consumers like organic products but don't regularly buy it, says study

Half of British consumers believe that organic food is healthier, but only 32% buy organic produce regularly, even though 47% claim that they would be prepared to pay more for environmentally friendly food.While 64% of Britons said they were interested in where their food came from, 85% of French consumers expressed concern, and the vast majority of Swedes (87%) want to know how their food is made, according to a recent Ipsos survey for SudVinBio, the Languedoc Roussillon organic wine growers’ association.


But when it came to organic wine, awareness in the UK is relatively low, with only 45% of British consumers saying they have heard of it, compared to 85% of German consumers and three quarters of French.

And of those British consumers who are aware of organic wine, the majority (55%) is drunk by the 35 - 64 year old age bracket, which isin line with the rest of Europe. But for nearly 70% of consumers, price was the main drawback of organic wine.

Nearly half of consumers polled (45.6%) think the key benefit of organic wine is the fact that it is environmentally friendly, with only 22% believing that it is healthier.  However, only 17% of British consumers would look on the label to check whether the wine is environmentally friendly, compared to 43% of Swedish consumers and 31% of French.

* Nearly 900 exhibitors have signed up to attend Millesime Bio in January 2016, the world’s leading global organic wine fair. Established in 1993, the fair, which is held in Montpellier,  expects to receive more than 5,000 visitors from all over the world. Demonstrating the growing interest in organic wine, this year’s exhibition saw a 13% increase in visitors on the previous year.


Number of coffee shops increase as consumer demand grows

Central Perk...one of the more famous coffee shops around

Central Perk...one of the more famous coffee shops around

Our love affair with coffee is going from strength to strength, with branded coffee shops becoming more popular than ever.

The total number of branded outlets across Europe has risen by 9% to around 19,470, an increase of over 1,650 last year alone, according toProject Cafe 16 Europe, the latest report from Allegra World Coffee Portal.

And the UK remains the most developed branded coffee shop market, with a third of the total European market, adding 713 stores in 2015 to reach a total of 6,409 by October this year.

Nineteen of the 24 countries surveyed have seen expansion in the number of outlets in the past year, with strong multinational brands faring best.

Dominating the coffee shops are leading chains Whitbread-owned Costa CoffeeStarbucks and McCafe, whichcontinue their expansion plans throughout Europe with a combined market share of 32%.