Celebrating English Wine Week
This I week visited Stopham Estate Vineyard to mark English Wine Week. There are more vineyards in the Arundel & South Downs constituency than any other, and the industry is growing in importance locally and nationally.
There are now around 700 vineyards in England and Wales, of which about 540 are commercial, and over 160 wineries producing sparkling, white, rose and red wines. The UK produced 5.9 million bottles in 2017.
The industry continues to expand. While around 1 million vines were planted in 2017, this increased to over 1.5 million in 2018. It’s significant that two major Champagne Houses have invested in England, Taittinger in Kent and Pommery in Hampshire.
English wine sales grew by over 30 per cent between 2015 and 2017, and over 2,000 people now work in the industry. This could potentially grow to 30,000 by 2040. Wine production is no longer a niche activity, and English wine stopped being the butt of jokes years ago.
English wine is now highly regarded, and many of our local producers have won awards. Last month, Stopham Vineyard won a trophy for ‘Best Still Wine’ for their Pinot Gris 2017 at the Independent English Wine Awards, the second year they have won in this category.
Nyetimber and Wiston have won prestigious awards, too, and their premium sparkling wines are sold abroad as well as at home.
The qualities we produce are still tiny compared with the amount that we import and drink, but our domestic industry is increasingly significant as a rural employer and in land use.
The industry is learning from the New World’s success in producing wine, both technically and in how valuable export markets were grown. Government could do more to help this.
WineGB points out that Tasmania has a smaller area under vine compared to Great Britain – only 1,289 acres compared with our 6,200 acres – but the State of Tasmania and the Australian Government give more support to their industry to build exports.
Many new world vineyards also cater for tourism and have diversified with wineries which are attractive destinations for the public, offering high quality food and drink. A number of our local producers are recognising this. Stopham, for instance, will open a tasting room and dining room next summer.
With our beautiful landscape, the South Downs has huge potential to showcase high quality food and wine.
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