No French fizz on this Michelin-starred restaurant’s wine list - only British bubbles

Charles Carron Brown, the head sommelier at Aulis London, said replacing champagne with English sparkling wine was getting an 'extraordinary reaction' from patrons
Charles Carron Brown, the head sommelier at Aulis London, said replacing champagne with English sparkling wine was getting an 'extraordinary reaction' from patrons - Jeff Gilbert/for The Telegraph

The head sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant has removed champagne in favour of English sparkling wine.

Thanks to Charles Carron Brown’s bold decision, Aulis London is believed to be the first ever British fine dining establishment not to offer the French wine which for so long has seemed inseparable from grande cuisine.

Mr Carron Brown, sommelier and restaurant manager at the exclusive Soho eatery - part of the Simon Rogan Group - said the move had led to an “extraordinary” reaction, but feedback from his patrons had been overwhelmingly positive.

He said: “It’s a decision that we made shortly after we won our first star earlier this year. I’ve grown up around vineyards down in Dorset, my closest vineyard was Langham, so I grew up literally a few miles from the vineyard - I know it very well - and it’s something that I am truly passionate about.

“Across the entire Simon Rogan Group, we’re very much into that - sourcing local produce at its absolute best.

“We’ve got these vineyards on our doorsteps - literally 50 miles away - and I made a very conscious decision to say, ‘You know what, we’re going to go for it, 100 per cent, let’s do it.’

“The support that has come from it, and the reaction [from customers] that we’ve had from it, has been extraordinary, it really, really has.”

The decision by Aulis London not to offer champagne is believed to be a first in the fine dining restaurant scene
The decision by Aulis London not to offer champagne is believed to be a first in the fine dining restaurant scene

He added: “You’re always going to get people who come in and say, ‘I really like champagne.’ I say, ‘We don’t actually offer champagne here, we offer English sparkling wine.’

“We’re really proud of it, we love the fact that we can do this.”

The list includes half a dozen sparkling wines from the south of England - with their distance from Aulis in miles marked against each bottle.

A 2014 chardonnay blend ‘classic cuvée’, from East Sussex small-batch producer Tickerage, is the most local at just 40 miles away.

“It’s a lovely touch that our guests really love,” explained Mr Carron Brown.

Speaking at the Defined Wine trade and press tasting in Bloomsbury, he said: “I have been to every single one of the vineyards that is on the list at the moment - and I love that. I love being able to translate this story.

“I think it’s really important as sommeliers, restaurant managers - whatever you want to call us - that we’re going to these places and we’re bringing that story of said vineyard, whichever one it is, to the consumer, inside that environment where they can enjoy a glass of locally produced wine.”

The event, held in Army officer drill hall Yeomanry House, heard English and Welsh wine grape production was the fastest growing agricultural sector in the UK, while planting has increased by 75 per cent in the past five years.

Trade body WineGB revealed the total area planted was now more than 4,200 hectares - equivalent to around 5,880 football pitches - with more than 900 vineyards and 200 wineries.

Last year was a record yield, with potential to produce up to 22 million bottles - 60 per cent higher than the previous record in 2018.

But despite its seemingly exponential growth, debate raged at the industry event over what English sparkling wine should be called, amid a clamour to find a catchy moniker to really emerge from the shadow of its continental rivals champagne, prosecco and cava, whose names more easily trip off the tongue.

Martyn Pollock, of Nine Oaks vineyard in Kent, said: “The quality level in England is such a high level that we should be drinking English sparkling, not just at the best restaurants, but at every restaurant.

“But it needs a better name - English sparkling wine does not have the same ring as champagne or prosecco.

“English sparkling wine is very descriptive, rather than romantic.”

William Sharpley, commercial director at the Weyborne Estate in the South Downs, said things would only change when “people think, ‘It’s my golden wedding anniversary,’ or ‘it’s my son’s graduation, that calls for a bottle of X’.”

Suggested names included ‘Albion’, ‘Saxon’, ‘Method Anglais’ or dividing wine regions along county boundaries, for example, “a glass of Sussex”.

Mr Pollock said the quest to find a suitable name for English sparkling should go to a public vote, saying: “Someone out there will come up with a good name.”