(CBS News) For the first time, the sale of more affordable sparkling wine is posing a small but mighty challenge to the sale of champagne in the U.K. While French champagne still dominates the international market -- with annual sales totaling $5.5 billion -- regional sparkling wine is a considerable emerging threat to champagne sales in England. British sparkling winemakers raked in $40 million this year. The production of sparkling wine in England is said to be a growth industry and even seasoned champagne drinkers -- and perhaps some of the scores of British ale drinkers -- could begin to consider it a comparable, and cheaper, alternative to traditional French champagne.
English winemaker Christian Seely, and business partner Nick Coates, have recreated the vineyards of France in the British countryside. Their vineyard in Hampshire, located an hour west of London, is said to have an almost identical soil profile as that of the Champagne region of France. The soil in Hampshire consists of mainly chalk and "a bit of clay," Seely told CBS News contributor Willem Marx.
Seely credits the changing climate with the increasingly favorable conditions for winemaking in the U.K.
"Well, it's definitely got warmer on average," Seely said in a report that aired Monday on "CBS This Morning."
"People say we have a climate today in this part of the world that is very similar to what they had in Champagne in the 1960s, and they were making great Champagne in the 1960's."