Chalky soil and unusually high temperatures could provide British consumers with English sparkling wine to rival the finest French champagne post-Brexit, Michael Gove said.
The Environment Secretary said a change in climate will see a “bumper harvest” for UK-produced sparkling wine this year, as he took part in a debate at BBC Countryfile Live in Oxford.
Mr Gove, speaking to an audience of farming and environmental experts, said the product pointed to the resilience and “joie de vivre” that can be found in Britain.
He said: “I was in East Sussex the weekend before last, talking to someone there who built a farm and turned it into a highly successful business producing English sparkling wine.
“One of the challenges – or opportunities, dare I say – of a changing climate is that chalky soil of parts of England, combined with the weather we just had, means that English sparkling wine will have a bumper harvest this year.”
The wine in question, which he later revealed was produced at the Rathfinny Estate in East Sussex, has been independently assessed as being “higher quality and better tasting than the finest champagne from France”, he said.
He added: “So whatever else Brexit may bring, it will bring English sparkling wine, providing a level of cheer to British drinkers, greater than that provided by the French champagne.”
The politician said it was an example of the “inventiveness, the creativity, the resilience, imagination and sheer joie de vivre you can find in Britain.”
Mr Gove, who later pledged to “put our environment at the heart of Government policy”, also championed British produce as a tool in fighting “public health emergencies” such as heart disease and diabetes.
He told the audience this generation is the first in the developed world “more likely” to die from diet-induced diseases than conditions such as tuberculosis or malaria.
“Therefore, in the interest of not just human health but the health of our economy, the health of our health service, we need to ensure that these diseases, which are public health emergencies, can be dealt with by making sure that all of us, collectively, eat healthier.”
He added that the answer is to be closer to the produce generated by British farmers.
“If you want high-quality food produced at the very highest levels, then you have to support our farmers. Because nowhere else is food produced to higher quality standards than here in the United Kingdom,” he said.
“Without our farmers, without domestic food production, human health suffers.”