English wine production soared by 160% in 2018

The amount of wine produced in Britain shot up by 160% in 2018 as the country bathed in glorious summer weather.

English and Welsh winemakers produced 15.6 million bottles last year, a huge increase on the 6 million that the frost-ravaged 2017 harvest yielded.

The previous record was 6.4 million bottles in 2014 and last year’s crop was 147% up on that year.

Wines of Great Britain chairman Simon Robinson said that 2018 will go down as the year that the English wine industry came of age. The vast majority of production took place in England, although Wales is growing its footprint too.

“2018 will probably be best remembered for the quality of the crop that was harvested here,” he said. “We had ideal growing conditions throughout the year, providing a very high quality crop, but also an exceptional volume crop.”

Almost 1.6 million vines were planted across England and Wales in 2018, up from 750,000 in 2016 and approximately 1 million in 2017.

Wines of Great Britain expects that the 2019 figure will “comfortably exceed the 2 million mark”. It estimates that the number of people employed by the industry rose from 2,000 in 2017 to around 3,500 in 2018. That figure is projected to increase to 24,000 by 2040.

“The industry is not only offering great career paths and creating many job opportunities, but providing a significant boost to rural employment and the local economy,” said Robinson.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall joined him at an event to celebrate the success of the British wine industry at Vintners’ Hall in London last night.

She became president of Wines of Great Britain after gaining a love of wine from her father, Major Bruce Shand, who was a wine merchant.

Her Royal Highness said: “Since becoming president of Wines of GB in 2012, I’ve witnessed our wines going from strength to strength, in quantity, and even more importantly in quality. Our winemakers have been winning international prizes, and I’m happy to say, beating our French friends on many occasions.

“Our winemakers make a huge contribution to tourism in this country. There are now over 500 vineyards in the UK and 200 of them receive visitors.

“More and more people can now appreciate wines grown in Great Britain, and in these times of uncertainty that can only be a good thing.”

Robinson, owner of Hattingley Valley in Hampshire, added: “Our industry is going through seismic change.

“In 2018, English and Welsh wines also won more awards than Champagne at the International Sommelier Awards, the first time that’s ever happened. A female winemaker from England was acclaimed as the International Sparkling Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge, breaking the very long-held tradition of this award always being male and nearly always being from Champagne.

“Sales of GB wines continue to grow both here and overseas and based on current trends are projected to increase to some 40 million bottles per annum by 2040. Almost every UK multiple retailer now stocks English and Welsh wines and domestic sales through retailers and restaurants are set to grow, as are sales direct from vineyards and online.”

He also noted that two Champagne Houses, Taittinger and Pommery, have now invested in the English wine industry and endorsed its potential. “Exports are close to my personal heart,” he said. “Within the next 20 years, we expect that exports will account for between 30% and 40% of the wine produced in England and Wales.

“My own vineyard is already achieving 30%, so it can be done. We export to the USA, Japan, Australia, China, the EU and many other countries, and this will be especially valuable after Brexit, if it ever happens.

“Our industry is going through an exciting period of change. The arrival of two Champagne houses – Taittinger, who have purchased 170 acres in Kent; and Pommery, with 100 acres in Hampshire – is an enormously strong endorsement for the future of our industry.

“Will we see additional interest from overseas? Undoubtedly. Is this a positive direction? In my view, unquestionably. Will Wine GB support these new investors? With open arms.

“Expertise, capital investment, access to global markets through existing distribution chains, marketing capabilities and technical excellence will all help to raise the capability and profile of our industry throughout the world.

“In my view the future of the industry is extremely bright. I only wish I was on the other side of 40 years old to observe the progress as it is made.”

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