Bring back the imperial pint for champagne

11 August, 2016

Two leading figures in the UK wine trade are hoping that the UK leaving the European Union could bring back the imperial pint for champagne.

Apparently an imperial pint of Champagne was once Britain’s most popular champagne bottle size - and the size favoured in all prominent London establishments.

Winston Churchill, an enthusiast for imperial pints of champagne and more specifically for imperial pints of Pol Roger champagne, popularised the bottle size in the UK.

He believed pint bottles held just the right amount - “enough for two at lunch and one at dinner”. He was known to keep an imperial pint of Pol Roger inside his greatcoat pocket during visits to blitz hit London.

Current EU regulation prohibits the imperial pint with legislation specifying the format and size of sparkling wine bottles sold in the UK – 37.5cl for half bottles, with full bottles at 75cl the next available size.  The imperial pint, with a capacity of 56.8cl, would sit between the half bottle and bottle at a size considered by many as ideal for sharing. 

Simon Berry, chairman of Britain’s oldest wine merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd has long been petitioning for the return of his favourite bottle size.

Berry said: “I’ve been campaigning to bring back the imperial pint for over thirty years and until recently I was no closer to winning this battle - but perhaps recent events will change that.

“The imperial pint makes for a perfect-sized bottle. You get four proper-sized glasses from it - as opposed to six from a bottle, or three from a half-bottle. Champagne is designed to be shared, ideally with one other person. The imperial pint gives two drinkers a couple of glasses each when a half-bottle would seem mean and a bottle lavish.”

Pol Roger, one of Britain’s favourite Champagne houses and the brand served at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding reception, has already started discussions with its glass supplier.

James Simpson, managing director of the Pol Roger subsidiary in the UK and advocate of the imperial pint, visited BB&R yesterday (August 10) with an imperial pint of Pol Roger 1914 vintage champagne.

Simpson said: “Brexit has raised a number of concerns and questions within the drinks industry, but regarding the revival of the imperial pint, we could have an opportunity.

“Though even assuming we would be able to restart production of the imperial pint, the nature of bottle ageing champagne means it would still be a number of years before we would start seeing Pol Roger in imperial pints again.

“The first production would not come on to the market for approximately four years for non-vintage champagne and it would be eight years for vintage champagne,” said Simpson.

In 1992, Veuve Cliquot attempted to introduce a new bottle size – 50cl.  Not the imperial pint, but at only 7cl smaller, close enough. The five years spent procuring the bottles, filling them, maturing the wine and then launching them, meant that by the time the bottles were ready for sale, the EU had already prohibited them in the UK.

The final vintage of Pol Roger champagne to be bottled in imperial pints was 1973.

Picture: Simon Berry discusees pints with James Simpson

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