The Churchillian pint of champagne is making a comeback, writes Olenka Hamilton
I have often thought how perfect it would be if champagne were sold by the pint. The 750ml bottle is far too big unless there are at least three of you, and a mini bottle each is just depressing, and feels gimmicky and like something you might once have drunk on a train on the way to an eighteenth birthday party.
But a pint – which is equivalent to 568 ml or four glasses – is clearly the perfect amount for a couple to share on a night in when spirits are high and a glass of regular wine feels a bit, well, flat.
And it seems the experts — some of them at least — agree with me, because the pint is making a comeback after a 45 year hiatus since being banned by Brussels in 1973. In the spirit of an impending Brexit, a Sussex-based vintner is gearing up for a re-launch of the pint bottle of fizz.
The Rathfinny estate in South Downs in East Sussex has laid down more than 800 imperial pint bottles containing its 2015 Blanc de Noirs, which will be ready for drinking next year. Pol Roger, the brand served at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, has also started discussions with glass suppliers over pint bottles after Brexit.
Co-owner of the Rathfinny estate Mark Driver told today’s Times: ‘It is such a perfect size – you get four proper glasses, as opposed to six from a full bottle, which is often too much for a couple, and only three from a half-bottle, which is very unsatisfactory.
‘The great thing about the “Sussex pint” as we’re calling it is that it can ferment in this sized bottle, something you can’t do with half a bottle, so the quality is maintained. No matter what your thoughts on leaving the EU, one benefit will be the ability to sell sparkling wine in the pint bottle.’
So the pint bottle isn’t just good for sharing, but also means that the optimum quality of the product is maintained – which isn’t the case with the smaller 375ml half-bottle.
Winston Churchill, who is said to have drunk 42,000 bottles of Pol Roger champagne in his life time – which would presumably make him something of an expert on the drink and its drinking – was himself a great supporter of the pint-bottle, deeming it to be the ‘ideal size’ .
In Churchill’s case, though, a pint of Champagne was, unsurprisingly, the right amount to have to himself. ‘Clemmie thinks that a full bottle is too much for me,’ he said of his wife. ‘But I know that half a bottle is insufficient to tease my brains. An imperial pint is an ideal size for a man like me. It’s enough for two at lunch and one at dinner. It pleases everyone, even the producer.’
And the British Weights and Measures Association is on board. Warwick Cairns, its spokesman, told The Times: ‘If you think imperial measures make sense you are accused of looking backwards and being a little Englander who doesn’t like anything foreign, but nothing could be further from the truth.’
On the contrary, a pint of champagne makes sense for practical, common sense reasons, they believe, which is why traditional measures exist. ‘Most cultures around the world have a measure that amounts to a decent handful,’ adds Cairns. ‘You can’t hold a kilogram of apples in your hand but a pound of apples sit nicely. A pint of champagne divides nicely into four glasses. That is not nostalgic, that makes sense and is a step forward.’
Patience in the meantime, however, as the bottles are unlikely to go on sale before 2021 due to strict EU rules limiting sparkling wine sales, though not still wine sales, to fixed sizes of 375ml, 750ml and multiples of 750ml. Here’s to Brexit.
Olenka Hamilton is staff writer at Spear’s