Wires

UPDATE 1-UK lawmaker splashes out on English sparkling wine

* Lord Ashcroft bets on growth of burgeoning niche sector

* Climate change could help English bubbly

(Recasts lead, adds detail, background)

LONDON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Controversial former ConservativeParty deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft on Wednesday uncorked plansto tap into Britain's burgeoning sparkling wine industry.

The multi-millionaire member of Britain's upper house ofparliament aims to produce 400,000 bottles a year fromvineyards in southern England, where growers have earned areputation for high quality fizz on a par with French Champagne.

Ashcroft's AIM-listed shell company Shellproof Limited

said it was looking to acquire 150 acres of vineyardsand to build its own winery towards the end of 2014.

Ashcroft, who has close ties to Belize in central Americaand has been a longtime donor to the Conservative Party, wasembroiled in recent years in a row about his fiscal status as itwas revealed he was not a full UK tax payer when he joined theHouse of Lords in 2000.

English bubbly, at 1.4 million bottles, accounts for onlyaround 1 percent of sales of sparkling wine in Britain but isproving increasingly popular with cash-strapped Britons.

Demand was boosted by Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubileecelebrations and the Olympics, according to supermarkets Tesco

and Sainsbury , which retail bottles between 10and 30 pounds ($23-$46).

French Champagne can fetch more than 40 pounds ($64) abottle.($1 = 0.6251 British pounds)

(Reporting by Natalie Huet; Editing by David Cowell)

((natalie.huet@thomsonreuters.com)(+44)(0)(207 5421272)(Reuters Messaging:natalie.huet.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: BRITAIN BUBBLY/