English wine producers look set to pass up the chance to sell wine by the pint, despite a triumphant announcement from the government that it had given them the “Brexit freedom” to do so.
In an announcement earlier this week, the Department for Business and Trade said British wine lovers would “soon be able to purchase pint-sized bottles of still and sparkling wine, as a new 568ml size is introduced to Britain’s supermarket shelves, pubs, clubs and restaurants”.
However, wine producers contacted by the Guardian said shoppers were unlikely to be able to buy pint bottles in any of those locations, citing environmental, economic and taste reasons.
The business minister Kevin Hollinrake said earlier this week that “our exit from the EU was all about moments just like this, where we can seize new opportunities […]”.
Balfour Winery vineyard in Kent said it was not intending to grasp this particular opportunity, which includes the right to sell wine in 200ml, 500ml and pint measures.
“Realistically, we’re looking at ways to take glass out of our supply chain rather than adding more in,” a spokesperson for Balfour Winery on the Hush Heath estate in Kent said.
“Bespoke bottle sizes add further cost, and take more resource to create – which is also less sustainable. Added to that, wine ages more gracefully in larger bottles and so generally tastes better, too.”
Pints of champagne have been favoured in the past by such alcohol connoisseurs as Sir Winston Churchill, who reportedly described the amount as “enough for two at lunch and one at dinner”.
However, Henry Jeffreys, the wine writer and author of Vines in a Cold Climate, a book about English wine, said the idea of pint bottles making a comeback was “slightly nonsensical”.
He said the government promise of pints of wine on the shelves by 2024 was a “red herring”, pointing out that even if producers wanted to sell them, the length of the sparkling wine production process meant none would be available next year anyway.
“I can’t see why anyone would do it,” he added.
In a statement on its website, the Rathfinny estate in Sussex has described the pint measure as “redundant”, adding that it was unlikely to take off.
“We don’t understand why the government has introduced a pint measure for wine after consulting the industry and being told that no one seems to favour going back to imperial measures,” Mark Driver, a co-owner of the estate, told the Guardian.
Rathfinny has previously campaigned to be allowed to produce sparkling wine in half-litre bottles, in line with permitted sizes for still wine, and welcomed the chance to adopt the metric measure.
“It’s the perfect-sized bottle for a couple to share, as it offers four (125ml) glasses of sparkling wine – as opposed to six in a 75cl standard bottle,” Driver said.
“No one is going to make a pint-sized bottle,” said one English winemaker, who asked not to be named, citing the “toxic” debate around imperial measures as the reason for anonymity.
“In order to make a pint-sized bottle, you’re going to have to invest a huge amount of money. It’s a silly measure.”
Of the 10 big English wine producers contacted by the Guardian, none responded to welcome the opportunity to sell wine by the pint.
Chapel Down, the largest English wine producer, declined to comment.
The Department for Business and Trade sent out a release earlier this week heralding the arrival of pints of wine from next year.
However, on Thursday a spokesperson said: “Up until now, you could have a 200ml bottle of sparkling wine, but not still. And on the flipside, you could have a 500ml bottle of still wine, but not sparkling.
“This announcement isn’t about one singular size, but about cutting complex EU regulations, providing more options to industry as well as harmonising existing sizes.”