A new film – Sparkling: The Story of Champagne – is being released during English Wine Week, debuting at the Ciné Lumière in South Kensington on 24 June – and there are two tickets to win to the premiere.
Created by London-based independent production company Swipe Films the feature-length documentary film is described as “a love letter to the joys and pleasures of Champagne,” and also charts some of the names and people behind English sparkling wine, illustrating the importance of this newer premium sparkling wine region and the part it is already playing in the wine world.
The film features English actor and comedian Stephen Fry, who has some fascinating, well researched and strongly held opinions on the subject of and history of Champagne. A further figure in the documentary is Sir Nicholas Soames, the former Tory Party MP and grand-son of Winston Churchill.
Major champagne houses featured include Pol, Piper-Heidsieck, Taittinger, Moet & Chandon, Cristal and Veuve Clicquot. The film explores the legend of the French monk, Dom Perignon, who famously exclaimed “I can taste the stars” when he discovered champagne, and examines the theory that the English actually invented sparkling champagne decades before Dom Perignon. It also looks at the impact of climate change – the champagne region is gradually becoming too hot for the growing of grapes leading to the likes of Pommery and Taittinger acquiring and planting vineyards in the south of England. By exploring the origins of the drink, the film provides an affectionate look at Anglo-French relations.
The producer, Frank Mannion, makes his directorial debut in this feature documentary which was mostly filmed in 2020 and 2021 in the Champagne region, England, New York and Los Angeles.
When lockdown happened in March 2020, filmmakers could not travel to France to continue filming. Instead it gave them a chance to explore the English side of the story and to film at Domaine Evremond and vineyards in Kent, Hampshire, West Sussex and Surrey. This led to a shift in the storyline of the film and made Mannion focus more on an exploration of the English claim that they fizzed up champagne long before Dom Perignon.
As Mannion says: “In the film, we leave it up to the viewer to decide who is right. We cast Stephen Fry in the role of Sir Fopling Flutter. Sir George Etherege’s celebrated Restoration play of 1676 provides the first recorded mention (in either French or English) of sparkling champagne. Being the polymath that he is, Stephen Fry has some engaging opinions on the origins of champagne that we included in the film. We were able to film in the Royal Society and examine the 17th century manuscript that contains the first ever reference to making wine effervescent, as set out in the seminal 1662 paper by Dr Christopher Merret. It’s a key moment in the film.”
Mannion continues: “We set out to make an entertaining film that went behind the bubbles to explore the origins of this glamorous drink. Our journey took some surprising turns.”
English sparkling wineries featuring in the film include Bolney Wine Estate, Hush Heath Estate, Hattingley Valley, Squerryes, Greyfriars, Wiston Estate and Her Majesty The Queen’s Vineyard at Windsor Great Park Vineyard.
Legendary wine merchant, Tony Laithwaite, facilitated filming at Windsor Great Park. The vines were planted there in 2011 and the resulting sparkling wine has been served at State Banquets including the one at Buckingham Palace that the Queen hosted for President Trump. In the film Tony Laithwaite recounts how proud the Queen (and the late Prince Philip) were of the enterprise and took a keen interest in how it was made, and enjoyed sampling it.
It was a big surprise for the director to discover how well developed the English sparkling wine industry is. “Hopefully “wine tourism” in England and Wales will flourish as the country opens up from lockdowns. There are so many great wine tours and tastings to be enjoyed within an hour or two’s drive from London – all great day trips. Hopefully the film will open the audience’s eyes to the quality and variety of English wine that is available on their doorstep,” Mannion adds.
FEATURED ENGLISH SPARKLING WINE HOUSES:
Hush Heath Estate, Bolney, Domaine Evremond, Greyfriars, Hattingley Valley, Louis Pommery, Squerryes, Wiston Estate, Greyfriars, Raimes (DVD extra) and Windsor Great Park Vineyard.
FEATURED CHAMPAGNE HOUSES:
Cattier, Armand de Brignac, Bollinger, Bruno Paillard, Cattier, Charles Heidsieck, de Venoge, Lanson, Legrand-Latour, Louis Roederer (Cristal), Mercier, Moet & Chandon, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Pommery, Veuve Clicquot & Taittinger.
Swipe Films will be holding a premiere at the Ciné Lumière in South Kensington on 24 June at 6.15pm, followed by a Q&A with Frank Mannion and then a Champagne reception sponsored by Pol Roger, Fever-Tree, Bolney Wine Estate, and Franco Manca.
WineGB has a pair of tickets to the premiere, sponsored by Bolney. To be in with a chance email [email protected] by midnight 23 June.
Further viewings are available at Ciné Lumiere thereafter, after which it will be released across Europe and on a leading streaming service.