VINEYARDS are the focus of a new feature-length documentary featuring Stephen Fry.

Several West Sussex vineyards will feature in Swipe Films' documentary, Sparkling: The Story of Champagne.

The film examines the theory that the English discovered champagne decades before Dom Perignon, a monk who made champagne and said: "I can taste the stars."

It also looks at the impact of climate change. The champagne region is gradually becoming too hot, leading to the likes of champagne makers Pommery and Taittinger planting vineyards in the south of England.

By exploring the origins of the tipple, the film provides a surprising take on Anglo-French relations.

The filmmakers visited the Bolney Wine Estate in Haywards Heath, the Wiston Estate near Pulborough, and Sugrue Pierre winery in the South Downs, near Washington.

Unique access was given to the film-makers to film at the Queen's vineyard at Windsor Great Park. Other locations for filming were France, New York and Los Angeles.

Part of the documentary was shot in New York locations, including Bemelsman Bar, Baccarat Bar and the glamorous Great Gatsby Ball at the Capitale, sponsored by Pommery.

The Argus: Tony Laithwaite Windsor Great Park Winemaker and Frank Mannion toast, Swipe Films' new documentary Sparkling: The Story of ChampagneTony Laithwaite Windsor Great Park Winemaker and Frank Mannion toast, Swipe Films' new documentary Sparkling: The Story of Champagne

The American angle of the film looks at how the charismatic "Champagne Charlie" Heidsieck charmed New York high society and brought champagne to the United States.

The cast includes Stephen Fry and many people from the world of champagne, such as Dom Perignon winemaker Vincent Chaperon, chairman of Bollinger Etienne Bizot, a French champagne house.

Also featuring is Sir Nicholas Soames, former MP for Mid Sussex and the grandson of Winston Churchill, who has famously drunk thousands of Imperial pint-sized bottles of Pol Roger.

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The cast also includes the best-selling author Oz Clarke, Don and Petie Kladstrup, and the Queen's winemaker, Tony Laithwaite.

The film's director, Frank Mannion of Swipe Films is making his debut with the film.

He said: "The film is a love letter to the joys and pleasures of champagne. We were fortunate to be able to shoot during lockdown as champagne producers were classified as essential workers.

"There are so many great wine tours and tastings to be enjoyed within an hour or two's drive from London at the likes of Bolney, Wiston Estate and Sugrue South Downs in West Sussex, Hush Heath in Kent, and Hattingley Valley in Hampshire are all great day trips.

"Our hope is that the film will open the audience's eyes to the quality and variety of English wine, and they will enjoy immersing themselves in the world of champagne and sparkling wine while raising a toast to better things ahead."

The Argus: Stephen FryStephen Fry

Mannion hopes that by introducing filmgoers to British sparkling wine manufacturers, it will inspire people to visit local vineyards in Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and West Sussex.

The film was released in UK cinemas last weekend, to coincide with English Wine Week. It will not be shown again until August 1, where it be screened at the New Park Cinema in Chichester.

Tony Piantedosi, vice president of Acquisitions at Gravitas Ventures, said: "Frank's film is beautifully shot, thoroughly researched, and above all a good time, full of amusing anecdotes and exotic locations to quench the thirst of a significant built-in audience."