MP urges Government to back English wine
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called on the Government to serve English sparkling wine at official events to back domestic production.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday (17 December), Mr Herbert asked Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps her Department was taking to promote English wine production.
He said that he believed that his constituency of Arundel & South Downs had the highest number of wine producers in the UK, and he called for a "a co-ordinated strategy to promote these excellent wines, which beat others from around the world in wine tastings”.
Mr Herbert asked the Defra Secretary to "ensure that English sparkling wine is served at Government events”, and quipped that “Prosecco, Cava, Champagne and other inferior brands [should be] consigned to the cellars”.
Ms Truss thanked Mr Herbert for his “sparkling point”, and said that she was encouraging colleagues across Government to use English sparkling wine as their drink of choice.
She pointed out that the English wine was a growing industry worth almost £100 million. "I note that two sparkling wines - including Nyetimber, which is produced in my Right Hon Friend’s constituency - recently beat champagne in a wine critics’ blind tasting competition”, she said.
The Defra Secretary added that the Government was promoting the English wine industry through the Great British Food campaign, and said that she would be holding a round-table event in the New Year with representatives of the sparkling wine industry to discuss how they can encourage the industry to grow.
Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing & Shoreham, followed up Mr Herbert’s question by thanking the Defra Secretary for her support for the English wine industry and for her recent visit to Sussex, which he said was "the premier area for the production of English sparkling wine”.
He called for "a better deal for English wine producers”, pointing out that "60 per cent of the price of an average bottle of wine in the UK goes on tax, as against 21 per cent in France”.
Ms Truss responded that excise duty was a matter for the Chancellor, but that she had "a very enjoyable morning in Sussex … we started the tour at 9 am, and it was one of my best days in the job."
The future of English wine production looks set to continue to grow, with Ms Truss advising that her Department has identified an additional 75,000 acres across the country that are suitable for producing sparkling wine, equivalent to the area of the Champagne region in France.
1. Photograph - Nick Herbert MP speaking in the House of Commons during Defra questions.
2. To read the Hansard report of the exchange in the Commons see http://www.nickherbert.com/media_centre.php/789/environment-food-and-rural-affairs-questions.
3. For further information about English wine production see the government news release ‘English and Welsh sparkling wines a cork popping success’: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/english-and-welsh-sparkling-wines-a-cork-popping-success.