With wine becoming more popular in Britain, it is said that the industry is now worth an astonishing £130 million. This is especially good news when you consider that English winemakers had warned earlier this year that the air frost that hit the country following a warm start to 2017 had caused “catastrophic” damage to buds which had bloomed earlier than usual.
The growth of the English wine industry
Wine producers in England were said to have had a turnover of £131.9 million throughout the years of 2015 and 2016, according to Funding Options. This is a 16 per cent rise on the £113.8 million turnover which was recorded in 2014/15, as well as a considerable jump from the £55.7 million recorded just five years ago (2010/11).
To increase this in the future, HMRC reported that 64 new wine producers have gained their licence for production in 2016 – the highest record known.
“English wine is going from strength to strength” Conrad Ford, the founder of Funding Options, acknowledged, and then went on to say:
“The English wine industry is not only gaining traction amongst domestic consumers, but is now being ranked with wines from traditional white wine-producing countries such as France and Germany. Wine growers need to reduce restrictions on production and capacity to ensure consistent, sustainable growth in the long-term. The fall in the value of sterling serves to showcase exactly how producers need to be able to increase capacity to react quickly to changing market conditions.”
England is home to some of the best wines in the world, some that have gone on to win awards beating competition from across the globe.
At the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017, Bacchus was given an award as the world’s best white wine. The Norfolk-based wine beat off competition from some 17,200 other entries and received a score of 95 out of 100 by a panel of 200 experts from across the globe.
“It comes as no surprise to us that an English Bacchus wine has won a major international award. Up until now, English Sparkling Wine has been grabbing most of the headlines for its outstanding quality. It was only a matter of time before an English still wine showed the world it can also compete with the best.” Commented Miles Beale, the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.
However, this isn’t the only English wine to have won an award, in 2010, both the Camel Valley winery in Cornwall and Nyetimber in West Sussex were recognised at the 2010 International Wine Challenge, the former for its 2008 Pinot Noir Rosé Brut and the latter with its 2001 Blanc de Blancs.
At the Independent English Wine Awards 2013, Good Life Farm Shop won a silver award for their Blanc de Noirs wine. Last year East Sussex-based Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard’s 2015 Regent Rosé was awarded the only ‘Top Gold’ medal at the 2016 International Organic Wine Awards.
English Wine Producers shared an insight on how the wine industry is active. It started when the Romans brought wine-making to Britain around 2,000 years ago. According to the marketing arm of the UK’s wine industry, as of 2016 there were 503 commercial vineyards and 133 wineries throughout England and Wales. In 2015, these facilities — which have a total hectarage of over 2,000 hectares under vine — collectively produced an estimated 5.06 million bottles of wine.
In England, you’ll always be close to a vineyard or winery. There are 13 wine producing regions in Mercia, seven in East Anglia, another seven in the South West, six in the South East, five in the Thames & Chilterns area and four in Wessex.
“If you compare us as a wine-producing nation to most other regions in the world, we’re miniscule. But if you look at our rate of growth, we’ve more than doubled our hectarage in the last 10 years.” Said Julia Trustram Eve, of English Wine Producers.
In English and Welsh vineyards, they are known for producing wine of all types of tastes, so you’ll always have the ability to try something new. Approximately 66 per cent sparkling wine, 24 per cent still white wine and the remaining ten per cent red or rosé wine. Further variety is seen when looking at the top ten grape varieties planted, which is based on 1,532 hectares of vineyards analysed:
Chardonnay, which made up 23.06 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 353.37 hectares.
Pinot Noir, which made up 22.01 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 323.14 hectares.
Bacchus, which made up 8.39 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 128.52 hectares.
Seyval, which made up 5.76 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 88.31 hectares.
Pinot Meunier, which made up five per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 76.65 hectares.
Reichensteiner, which made up 4.72 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 72.35 hectares.
Rondo, which made up 3.15 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 48.24 hectares.
Muller Thurgau, which made up three per cent of production across a total area in commercial production of 45.94 hectares.
Madeleine Angevine, which made up 2.57 per cent of production across a total area in commercial production of 39.34 hectares.
Ortega, which made up 2.32 per cent of production across a total area in commercial production of 35.48 hectares.
According to English Wine Producers, there are a million vines planed across England and Wales throughout 2017.
Becoming a worldwide sensation
Wine insurance provider, Lycetts, know that there are plenty of benefits for the English wine industry on home soil, and there are plenty of opportunities and changes that can be made for the future internationally. England’s wine industry was recently voted by both The United Kingdom Vineyards Association (UKVA) and English Wine Producers (EWP) for the two bodies to be merged into one single-industry representative body. Named UK Wine Producers (UKWP), this organisation will now be tasked with promoting, representing and supporting every wine producer and vineyard found across the UK.
Hattingley Valley owner Simon Robinson commented:
“We can now speak with a single voice, and can consult with a single membership, making it clearer to Government what the industry thinks. The big issue now for us is Brexit. We want assurances that there will be no constraints on planting. In large parts of Europe, you can’t plant a new vineyard unless you take one out. We aren’t scouting for government support for production but would like support for sales and marketing, especially overseas, as other wine-producing countries do.”
Bolney Estate photographs by Julia Claxton