Why I’m taking on the sparkling wine industry and campaigning for clearer bottle labelling

One of the biggest compliments I’ve had in the last few weeks is, ‘Wish I’d thought of that!”.

Thomson & Scott Skinny Champagne and Prosecco are taking off in a big way. We’ve been reviewed positively by Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield on This Morning, featured in every national newspaper (Carol Midgeley in The Times revealed that, yes, Skinny Prosecco is, ‘a thing’) and been namechecked by GQ and Radio5Live while trending on Facebook.

I’m flattered, of course. But I can’t deny the barkier side of my personality is asking: ‘What took you so long?!” Everybody is talking about the dangers of processed sugar, but this was emphatically not the case when I launched Thomson & Scott Skinny Sparkling Wines five years ago.

With my launch I was on a crusade. I was brought up on a vegetarian and sugar-free diet, and was well aware that this wasn’t the norm (as anyone from my childhood who remembers me craving cocoa pops for breakfast will attest!). As an adult it’s second nature for me to question what’s in every bite I eat. For some reason it took me a while to do the same with what I drink, but now that I’m aware I’m passionate about spreading the word.

I like wine. While working as a BBC Arts Presenter I leapt from canapé to flute of champagne, little thinking that the latter might contain what amounted to teaspoons of processed sugar. When I moved with my family to Paris to enrol on a wine course at Le Cordon Bleu I met a maker of sparkling wines who blew my mind. He revealed that the dosage of processed sugar most champagne makers rely on to give the characteristic sweetness wasn’t actually necessary – and nor were chemicals and rapid production methods.

The Thomson & Scott Skinny brand was born. Not instantly. Like most “overnight successes” ours has been a (champagne!) case of super hard graft and many sleepless nights. We started with Thomson & Scott Skinny Grand Cru and Rosé, and this year launched Thomson & Scott Skinny Prosecco. We craft delicious sparkling wines made with little or no added processed sugar. My secondary aim is to campaign for greater transparency about what is actually in bottles of wine. Why are there labels all over food, and hardly anything on wine? Sugar is so insidious and creeps its way into everything in our diet. In the same way a customer might not realise that 40% of a ‘healthy’ granola bar is made of sugar, they might also not realise that a typical bottle of champagne might contain up to 17grams of the white stuff. This can’t be right.

So please keep on drinking, partying and celebrating all that’s good in life. That’s certainly what I intend to do. What makes me sad are diabetes statistics and the increasing use of chemicals and weird ingredients – bull’s blood in your Prosecco, anyone? Truly – it’s used as a filter by some manufacturers. When what’s on your label is as transparent as the finest crystal flute I’ll be very happy indeed – and yes, I’ll be popping corks on the no-sugar Thomson & Scott Skinny Grand Cru to celebrate. 

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