Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): What steps her Department is taking to promote wine production in England.

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Elizabeth Truss): English sparkling wine is 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. We are promoting the industry through the Great British Food campaign.

Nick Herbert: There has been a remarkable increase in wine production in my constituency in West Sussex, and I believe that I now have more wine producers than any other constituency. Is this not the time for a co-ordinated strategy to promote these excellent wines, which beat others from around the world in wine tastings? Will my right hon. Friend also ensure that English sparkling wine is served at Government events, and that prosecco, cava, champagne and other inferior brands are consigned to the cellars?

Elizabeth Truss: I thank my right hon. Friend for his sparkling point. I will be holding a round-table in the new year with representatives of the sparkling wine industry to talk about how we can encourage the industry to grow. I recently held an event in Shanghai, China, with English sparkling wine producers, and I am encouraging all my colleagues right across Government to use English sparkling wine as their drink of choice.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): I thank the Secretary of State for her support for the English wine industry and for her recent visit to Sussex, the premier area for the production of English sparkling wine. I hope that Breaky Bottom will be her Christmas lunch tipple. May I remind her that 60% of the price of an average bottle of wine in the UK goes on tax, as against 21% in France, for example? How are her discussions going with the Chancellor on getting a better deal for English wine producers?

Elizabeth Truss: As my hon. Friend will know, excise duty is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, but I had a very enjoyable morning in Sussex recently—we started the tour at 9 am, and it was one of my best days in the job.

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming Taittinger and Hatch Mansfield’s new venture to produce sparkling wine in my constituency, and will she take steps to ensure that policy across Government supports the growth of the English sparkling wine industry?

Elizabeth Truss: It is no surprise that even the French want to get in on the action in the English sparkling wine industry. Using DEFRA’s data, we have identified an additional 75,000 acres across the country that are suitable for producing sparkling wine. That is the equivalent of the champagne region, so I am sure that the industry will go from strength to strength.

Alexander BlackWine, Environment