Winston Churchill hailed the pint bottle of champagne as the “ideal size”, declaring it “enough for two at lunch and one at dinner”.
Now the sale of the wartime prime minister’s favoured quantity of fizz is set to become legal in Britain once more, as ministers prepare to scrap an EU ban on pints of sparkling wine.
Before the UK joined what later became the European Union in 1973, it is claimed that 60 per cent of all champagne sold in the country was in imperial pint-sized bottles.
Upon accession to the Common Market, however, the UK was forced to fall into line with an existing Brussels ban on the glass container, as well as other uses of imperial measurements.
The Government now has its sights set on lifting the ban, alongside other unwanted EU legislation that has lingered on the UK statute book beyond Brexit.
An ongoing review into “hangover” EU laws has been taken on by Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, following the resignation last week of Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister.
It is hoped that pints of sparkling wine could become legal again as soon as next year.
IMPERIAL PINT vs. MODERN PINT
A Government source told The Telegraph on Thursday night: “Pint-sized bottles were a victim of the EU’s war against imperial measurements, which are widely used and understood in this country.
“Now we’ve left the EU, we can rid ourselves of rules like this. Work is underway in Government to make this change happen.”
The development is good news for Rathfinny Estate, which produces sparkling wine in Sussex and laid down 800 pint-sized bottles in the wake of the UK voting Leave, although the winemaker had been campaigning for the return of the “modern pint” long before Brexit.
Rathfinny hopes to release this batch of its Classic Cuvée late next year if the ban is repealed in time.
Mark Driver, co-owner of the winemaker, said: “If this change in legislation is forthcoming, this is great news and something we have been lobbying hard for.”
He argued that the pint bottle is the perfect size for two people to share, as it offers four glasses, which is more easily divisible than the three glasses offered by a half bottle.
‘Insufficient to tease my brains’
It is also two glasses less than the six glasses contained in a standard bottle, which may be considered too much for a couple to share before lunch or dinner in an increasingly health-conscious society.
A standard bottle was certainly considered excessive for a lone drinker – at least by Churchill’s wife. He once remarked “Clemmie thinks that a full bottle is too much for me, but I know that half a bottle is insufficient to tease my brains.” The compromise of the pint “pleases everyone, even the producer”, he concluded.
The latter assertion remains true, since the modern pint, which holds 50cl, can be made in the “traditional method”, which means that secondary fermentation takes place inside the bottle.
This avoids the pitfalls of the half bottle, which contains 37.5cl, that is often filled by transferring the sparkling wine from a larger bottle, losing pressure in the process and producing what many vintners consider an inferior bottle of wine.
Brexiteer MPs have also welcomed signals that the Government is preparing to scrap the EU ban, suggesting that English pints of English wine would have a marketing advantage and could become a best-seller worldwide as well as at home.
Mark Francois, chairman of the European Research Group, commented that “if you are an optimist, you go through life believing the glass is half full, rather than half empty”, but urged ministers to allow British vintners to go “even further and offer to make the pint glass full to the brim” with sparkling wine.