See Tony Laithwaite on the big screen in Sparkling: The Story of Champagne

Partial to a drop of the best bubbly? Well, now you can discover all the murky and quirky stories behind some of Champagne’s biggest names – Bollinger, Veuve, Pommery, Pol Roger, Taittinger, Paillard and more – in this nicely shot docu-film produced and directed by Oxana Popkova and Frank Mannion. Sparkling: The Story of Champagne will be launching on Britbox this week or it may even be showing in your local cinema … in the UK, France, the States, Australia and New Zealand.

But this film goes way beyond that … it dares to examine the controversial theory that we, at Laithwaites, have long championed: that the English (Christopher Merrett to be exact) actually discovered how to capture bubbles in a wine 30 years before the recluse monk, Dom Perignon, in 1697. And the lovable Stephen Fry can’t resist a brief appearance as Sir Fopley Flutter from Etheridge’s Restoration comedy of 1676, Man of Mode, just to prove the point.

Most exciting for us, it looks at the current buzz around English Sparkling Wine, giving Tony Laithwaite centre stage, as he talks about the exponential rise in English fizz and a project very close to his heart, Windsor Great Park Vineyard. There are some beautiful aerial shots of the three-hectare vineyard, leading down to Great Meadow Pond, which Tony planted in 2011, with the inaugural vintage launched to great acclaim in 2013.

Watch the trailer

Talking to Kent Online, Frank said: “The film is a love letter to the joys and pleasures of Champagne. There are so many great wine tours and tastings to be enjoyed within an hour or two’s drive from London at the likes of Hush Heath and Squerryes in Kent, Bolney and Wiston Estate in West Sussex – all great day trips. Our hope is that the film will open the audience’s eyes to the quality and variety of English wine and they will enjoy immersing themselves in the world of Champagne while raising a toast to better things ahead in 2021.”

At the special screening this week at The Old Court in Windsor, the spiritual home of English Sparkling Wine in our book (Henry II had a vineyard planted at Windsor Castle in the 12th century to please his new bride, Eleanor of Aquitaine, from Bordeaux), the audience was greeted, courtesy of Laithwaites, with a glass of Windsor Great Park Vineyard 2015, served from the last few remaining magnums of the vintage.

Barbara and Tony Laithwaite during the harvest at Windsor Great Park vineyard
Barbara and Tony Laithwaite during the harvest at Windsor Great Park vineyard

Inevitably the film touches on climate change and what that means for Champagne and, more positively, for English Sparkling Wine. Warmer temperatures over the last two or three decades has certainly been a fillip to quality.

Frank added: “The film 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 (the chalk soil in Kent – best manifested by the White Cliffs of Dover – is the same as the champagne region). By exploring the origins of the drink, the film provides an affectionate look at Anglo-French relations.”

Special mention must go to Bruno Paillard, as the most charismatic Champenois featured in the film. We were buying Bruno’s trail-blazing Champagnes way back in the ‘80s, when he was first setting up independently and daring to be different. Go Bruno.

But the title for fizz of the future must go to the English. As Oz Clarke says in the film “Let the dreamers do their stuff … and over the next 20-30 years”, we will reap the rewards.

Laithwaite's Wine

About Laithwaite's Wine

We’re wine nuts, not wine snobs. We’ve been exploring the world on a mission to find great wine for the last 50 years. If you love adventure as much as we do, you belong with us. We know our winegrowers like family – and in some cases they actually are. Expect to hear from these legends of the soil, see behind the scenes access into vineyards and wineries and get news on fresh finds from our travels on this page. Drink responsibly. Visit drinkaware.co.uk for further health information. You must be aged 18 or over to follow.

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