Celebrity chef’s rant obviously a publicity stunt for new opening, wine professionals say

Restaurants and English wine producers have dismissed British chef Marco Pierre White’s comments on English wine – and one has challenged him to a blind tasting.

English sparkling wine is recognised worldwide for its excellence, is sold in the finest restaurants and hotels, and constantly wins the top awards from international wine competitions.

“For the past 15 years we have seen English sparkling wine flourish into an exciting and dynamic industry, consistently producing wines that compete on a global level. This is recognised by the most prominent experts within the wine trade; there is simply no question that English wines are of a very high quality,” said Charlie Holland, winemaker at Gusbourne Estate in Kent.

But it’s “overpriced” and “not very good”, according to Pierre White. “The French make the best wine,” he said in an interview. “The English just play at it. Better than Krug? Than Bollinger? No! Then why buy it, unless you are a total numpty?”

Pierre White, who twenty years ago won three Michelin stars at the age of 33, the youngest-ever chef to do so (he was also an early employer of Gordon Ramsay, whom he tormented to the point of tears, according to culinary legend – the two certainly still loathe each other), was speaking at the opening of a restaurant in Devon in Southern England.

He serves Champagne at up to £220 ($290) a bottle, but no English wine. In contrast, Etch in Hove, East Sussex, one of Britain’s newest high-end restaurants, serves only English sparkling wine, by the glass, with bottles priced between £35 ($46) and £110 ($145).

“I have to disagree with Marco Pierre White. English sparkling wine is made with supreme quality, with much of it aged at least three years before it is put on the market, whereas some Champagnes are released after 12 months of ageing. Champagne is now quite homogenous and it comes at a price. English sparkling wine offers better value for money,” said Sam Weatherill, sommelier at Etch. “I don’t know of Champagne that can trump English sparkling wine in terms of value.”

Several English winemakers said Pierre White’s comments had obviously been made as a publicity stunt, coinciding as they did with the opening of his new restaurant.

Bob Lindo owner of Camel Valley, an English wine producer in Cornwall, and a winner of multiple awards, said, “He has over-priced everything he is ever done. Has he even tasted English wine?”

He added, “Camel Valley has just had a 12,000 bottle order from British Airways to serve our wine in first class. This will almost generate enough income for us to dine at one of Marco Pierre White’s restaurants.”

Meanwhile, Mark Driver, owner of the Sussex wine producer Rathfinny, suggested they sort the matter out with a blind tasting.

“He (Marco Pierre White), says English Sparkling is overpriced but he also says he prefers Krug and Bollinger. Krug retails at £135. Most English wine is vintage and retails way below that level, and quite frankly is comparable in quality. We’d challenge him to a blind tasting.”

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