A storm in a champagne glass

We look into the recent story that appeared on BBC TV about the possibility of champagne becoming available again in the UK in pint bottles.

The news item can be viewed here:


It is difficult to see what the fuss is about. Hubert de Billy from Pol Roget, who produce champagne, tells us that a pint (568 mL) is a convenient size between a bottle (750 mL), and a half bottle (375 mL). Indeed, half way between the two is 563 mL. And as Churchill is reported to have said, “When I drink a bottle my wife is not happy. When I drink a half bottle, I am not happy.”

Hubert says the size was popular “before the war” – that is the Second World War. But after the war, its popularity “decreased slowly but surely” as drinking champagne by the glass became more popular. When pressed by the interviewer, Jo Coburn, to say what is the best size, he is clear – the magnum, equivalent to 2 bottles (1.5 L).

Finally, when Jo asks Tim Martin of Weatherspoons if this is a gimmick, he admits it is, but he says it is fun and provides a talking point, and I think we can all drink to that.

It should also be said that the pint has ceased to be a measurement unit in the UK and has become a size number, like those for shoes, hats and dresses. Go into a pub and ask for 3/4 pint of draught beer or cider and you will be unlucky. And if you ask for two pints you will get one pint twice.

We can expect further stories in the coming months about a return to medieval measurements. Prepare for some fun.

9 thoughts on “A storm in a champagne glass”

  1. The irony is never lost on me that ‘pint-sized’ in English means very small in size. If you describe someone or something as ‘pint-sized’, you think they are smaller than is normal or smaller than they should be.


  2. You can rest assured that if this bottle size actually returns, it will cost the same as 750 mL. In the video interview, Hubert started to say that a pint was 570 mL and in mid-stream he switched to 568.2 mL. If he tried to sell a 568.2 mL size in any country where the pint is still legal for beer sales, the product will be rejected as those countries define the pint amount to be 570 mL.

    The sale of such a product will still need to have the law actually changed. So far, there has been no such a change taking place. It will be hilarious if these bottles show up at the ports and customs refuses them entry or better yet, if England, with no trade deal from the EU puts high tariffs on products such as Champagne. Either way this can be seen as a bad business decision by Pol Roget.

    The company seems to have a fascination with Winston Churchill. The house’s prestige label is the vintage Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.

    Pol Roger had been the favourite champagne of Sir Winston Churchill since 1908.[4] After Churchill’s death in 1965, Pol Roger placed a black border around the labels of Brut NV shipped to the United Kingdom.[5] Madame Odette Pol-Roger, whom Churchill had befriended at a party at the British Embassy in Paris in 1944, attended his funeral nearly 21 years later.[6] In 1987, when the trees of Churchill’s country retreat, Chartwell, were devastated by the Great Storm, the Pol-Roger family paid for much of the replanting.[7]

    In 1984, Pol-Roger introduced the Pinot noir-dominant[5] Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.[1] The first vintage of this cuvée (the one introduced in 1984) was the 1975, only released in magnum format. It has been followed by the 1979, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2004 vintages.[8] This cuvée is typically released around ten years after its vintage year.

    Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill replaced the Pol Roger P.R. Reserve Speciale at the top of the range. Reserve Speciale was a 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot noir blend from 100% rated grand cru vineyards. First released with the 1971 vintage, it continued to be produced alongside Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill until the 1988 vintage, when its production was terminated as Pol Roger felt no need to have two competing prestige cuvees.

    See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_Roger

    In some weird twist they must think they are honouring Churchill by offering pints.


  3. So, is this something Theresa May and the Tories will tout as the face of the post-Brexit “global Britain”? 😉


  4. How is it possible that this post received 21 dislikes and only 9 likes? It seems to me the anti-metric brigade comes here and just automatically dislikes anything that is pro-metric.


  5. Daniel, just treat the thumbs downs as badges of honour, the more we get the more we have hit home with the truth, facts and realism.
    At least that keeps them off the streets vandalising signposts.


  6. @Daniel Jackson:

    Pol Roger do have a bit of a soft spot for Winston Churchill as he was said to have, more or less single-handedly, kept their business afloat through some difficult times when the Nazi military weren’t buying most of their production. But it is not solely within Pol Roger’s gift to just start selling fizz by the imperial pint (57 cl) under the name ‘Champagne’ when the metric pinte (50 cl) is already approved.

    A new part of this recurring story is the English wine maker who has already started using imperial pint bottles. He should be congratulated for having either kept some old imperial moulds or commissioning some new ones, no doubt at a premium. Even if he does manage to get a law change to allow this, I shall not be buying any as I’m too suspicious that this shall be just another excuse to cheat the customer like all the other imperial martyrs.

    A related story seeking to appeal to little-Englander nationalism was one of our minor politicians and renowned imperial fan, Jacob Rees-Mogg, suggesting that standards which are good enough for India should also be good enough for UK. This isn’t the only time he has chosen a spectacularly bad example to illustrate his call for a race-to-the-bottom frenzy of disaster-capitalism. But I think we should hold him to this one—India have famously removed imperial from all public communications, including road signs which are exclusively metric and based on UK designs. They have also not left their version of TSM chapter 2 unpublished for decades at a time due to gross ineptitude or written guidelines which are too bonkers for most practitioners to get right. Bangladesh have gone one step further and removed all English words, leaving only language-independent pictograms and internationally-understood metric measurements. Pakistan, disappointingly, are even more of a muddle than UK, with English words abound, ‘yds’ and ‘Km’ <sic>!


  7. Just glancing through the Indian Road Manual, I noticed (page 25 thru 29 for example) the incorrect use of the speed symbol. They use kmph rather than the correct km/h.

    I wonder if Pakistani yards are hidden metres as they are in the UK.


  8. @Daniel Jackson:

    Yes, both km/h and ‘kmph’ are used internally in the Indian document but the speed signs themselves do not show the unit. I guess the faux-neologism is due to the malign influence of UK Design Manual For Roads And Bridges, which uses ‘kph’ and ‘mph’—both gibberish. UK legislation did use ‘m.p.h.’, which was arguably OK when they were ignoring kilometres!

    Many(◊) road signs in India [historically] had Tesco-prefix ‘Km’ distances and no space before the unit. Introduction of the UK paired/ dual height signs forced DfT to belatedly and begrudgingly set rules for layout of metric values. Since then, Bangladesh, at least, has updated most of its working drawings to use the same format. Hopefully, it will spread throughout the subcontinent over time. I suspect, but don’t know, that Pakistan has soft metrication (e.g. ‘50 yds’ = 45 m) and never officially adopted hidden metres as they could always use true metric openly.

    Even if we didn’t fix these issues, the Indian standard is still far better than the UK one and starkly demonstrates what a terrible mess the DfT bureaucracy have made of road signs using rubbish excuses in their desperation to cling onto empire. Thanks for highlighting this, Mr. Rees-Mogg!

    ◊ :- All the ones based on UK originals with ‘m’ for imperial miles, AFAICT.


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