Meet the U.K.’s newest wine expert—the Duchess of Cornwall, formerly known as Camilla Parker Bowles.
During a recent visit to Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey with her husband, the couple was poured a taste of a sparkling rosé. Prince Charles turned to his wife and asked:
“What does our resident expert think?”
“That’s so good it’s absolutely delicious,” said the Duchess. Later, in a conversation with a winery official, she complained that English sparkling wine is made in the same way as Champagne, from the same grapes grown in the same type of soil.
“It’s so annoying not to be able to call it Champagne,” she said, “when it is Champagne.”
Life is full of annoyances—the bus is late, the water heater explodes, and you can’t refer to English sparkling wine as Champagne. Like many other people, I had a different impression of the Duchess prior to this moment (homewrecker, hussy, destroyer of the dreams of princesses). Little did I realize that she was both a wine expert and a staunch patriot.
In fact, English sparkling wine is very good. Last year, a bottle from Cornwall beat out 450 others (including the major Champagne houses) to be named best in the world at the International Wine Challenge. Unfortunately, though, it’s not Champagne, which is only grown and produced in one place (you guessed it).
Champagne is not only a brand that has been recognized for centuries, but it is also protected under the EU labeling laws that Britain subscribes to. It is accorded the same respect as Stilton cheese, Shetland wool, Scotch whisky and Kentish ale. Strangely, the Duchess doesn’t find these English trademarks to be annoying. Of course, the French were not amused. “The law is the law,” said Olivier Prothon of the French Trade Commission. “If you want to change it, you can lobby to do so. But only an Aston Martin can call itself an Aston Martin. Champagne is our brand.”
At the very least, we have a glimpse into what Camilla’s priorities will be if and when she becomes Queen. Surrey Champagne, here we come.