Celebrating England’s wine scenery

According to a recent study, the English wine industry is currently worth in excess of £130 million. This glorious period for the industry is especially noteworthy seeing as though 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.

Just how well is England’s wine scenery at the moment? Lycetts, a specialist provider of wine insurance, investigates…

Standout facts & figures of the English wine industry

The English wine scene can be traced back to around 2,000 years ago, when the Romans brought wine-making to Britain. Research carried out by English Wine Producers has highlighted how this scene is currently bustling with activity. 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.

You may also be surprised just how close you are to an English vineyard or winery. This is because 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.

English Wine Producers’ Julia Trustram Eve pointed out: “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.”

The styles of wine produced in English and Welsh vineyards and wineries vary greatly as well, with 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:

  1. Chardonnay, which made up 23.06 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 353.37 hectares.
  2. Pinot Noir, which made up 22.01 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 323.14 hectares.
  3. Bacchus, which made up 8.39 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 128.52 hectares.
  4. Seyval, which made up 5.76 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 88.31 hectares.
  5. Pinot Meunier, which made up five per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 76.65 hectares.
  6. Reichensteiner, which made up 4.72 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 72.35 hectares.
  7. Rondo, which made up 3.15 per cent of production; a total area in commercial production of 48.24 hectares.
  8. Muller Thurgau, which made up three per cent of production across a total area in commercial production of 45.94 hectares.
  9. Madeleine Angevine, which made up 2.57 per cent of production across a total area in commercial production of 39.34 hectares.
  10. Ortega, which made up 2.32 per cent of production across a total area in commercial production of 35.48 hectares.

It should also be mentioned that a million vines are to be planted throughout England and Wales by the end of 2017, if claims by English Wine Producers are accurate. This will make it the largest planting achieved in a single year.

The growth of the English wine industry in 2016

According to insight from online business finance supermarket Funding Options, independent English wine producers were able to increase their turnover to a record high of £131.9 million during 2015/16. 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).

Statistics released by HM Revenue and Customs also revealed that 64 new wine producers were able to obtain a licence for wine production during 2016, which is another landmark feat for England’s wine scene.

“English wine is going from strength to strength”, Funding Options’ founder Conrad Ford states. However, he was keen to add: “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.”

English wine industry host to award-winning wine

The English wine scene has been further boosted by the fact that the country now has award-winning drinks to boast about, including drinks which beat off international competition for the honour.

At the Decanter World Wine Awards in May 2017, Winbirri Vineyards’ Bacchus 2015 wine was awarded the Platinum Best in Show prize — effectively being honoured with becoming 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.

Miles Beale, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association’s chief executive, commented on the achievement by stating: “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.”

This is just one of many prestigious award wins that has been achieved by English wine. 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 Rose Brut and the latter with its 2001 Blanc de Blancs.

At the inaugural Independent English Wine Awards, Good Life Farm Shop was also awarded a Silver for its 2013 Blanc de Noirs wine. It was only last year that East Sussex-based Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard’s 2015 Regent Rose was awarded the only ‘Top Gold’ medal at the 2016 International Organic Wine Awards too.

How the English wine industry is changing

It’s vital to look into a major change that aims to push the English wine industry forward, both domestically and internationally, while celebrating all of the success that the sector has achieved recently though.

This is because both The United Kingdom Vineyards Association (UKVA) and English Wine Producers (EWP) recently voted for the two bodies to be merged in order to create a 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.

Speaking to Horticulture Week, Hattingley Valley owner Simon Robinson and newly appointed chair of the UKWP, acknowledged: “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.”













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