Harlots and Princes: Charmat English sparkling wine - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

img 1869English sparkling wine made with the Charmat method has arrived and is causing quite a stir - well in wine circles. But are actual consumers actually taking any notice of Harlot Brut NV sparkling (£15 The Wine Cavern), its rosé version (£16) and Prince Charmat (£15 Tesco)?

These English equivalents of Prosecco and are designed to appeal directly to the drinkers of this highly popular Italian fizz, so says Emma Clark, Marketing Manager at MDCV the manufacturers of Harlot, "Having worked with the award-winning design agency, JKR, we researched the Prosecco drinker, their drives, ambitions and wants. From this Harlot was born."

But MDCV aren't the first to use the Tank Method (another less romantic name for the Charmat way of adding bubbles to wine which does actually use a large stainless steel tank rather than decant into individual bottles as is used in Champagne). Divergent Drinks came up with Fritz, and now the supermarket version Prince Charmat, before the provocatively-named Harlot was launched.

img 1872The Charmat method however is, lets not beat about the bush, an industrial method of making fizz and it’s been used successfully in Italy to make Prosecco and now in Kent to make Harlot Brut Charmat of England - a quaffable fizz made with the same grape varieties used to make Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) but with the addition of the Bacchus grape variety that English wine growers have made their own.

And it’s got many of the English sparkling wine makers backs up because it is seen as diluting the brand of quality English sparkling wine. The majority of English fizz is made using a method identical to that used to make Champagne (renamed the Classic Method), and often identified as the premium way to make sparkling wine – it is essentially a more expensive and fiddly way of adding bubbles.

Charmat wines, because of their large-volume method of manufacture, can sell for half the price of more traditional image methode champenoise sparkling wines - which not only includes Champagne but Spanish Cava plus Australian and South African fizz.

The new English versions, selling at £15-£20 a bottle, straddles the price range of cheap Champagne and more expensive Prosecco and is up to half the price of the Classic Method English wines (Hattingley Valley Classic Reserve NV is £30 at Waitrose, while Nyetimber Rosé is £41).

But what about those names? Harlot is a brand that is about "taking control and changing the narrative. We believe that Harlot should not be seen as gender specific and more as a representation of someone who is inclusive and not defined by name, race, gender or sexuality", says MDCV's Emma Clark.

It is difficult to get past the brand name – one which harks back to an identity given to women and their profession, a profession many did not want. There has been attempts to recapture the word harlot and "push boundaries" - there's The Modern Harlot and Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion but both websites seem to be moth-balled plus there's the popular TV programmes Harlots, Killing Eve and Fleabag which Marketing Manager Emma Clark uses in her defense of the use of Harlot as a brand name.

So are we being asked to assume that Harlot's consumers do not associate the term harlot with Harlot? Or has the expected wine buying demographic (18-45 year-old Prosecco drinker) not come across this word with its associated definition? Or does harlot have a new meaning for this age group - a term of affection perhaps?

But when you come to taste the wine you find it tastes more like Babycham (the sparkling pear cider drink which was the ‘in’ thing for women to drink in the 1950s and 60s) rather than sharp and lemony Champagne and Classic Method English fizzes. Harlot may be marketing itself as a radical choice but it harks back to an older idea of what to drink. Which doesn’t stop it being tasty, if a little expensive.

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