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Monday 22 June 2015

Wine lovers: look out, the English are coming

Remember when English sparkling wine was seen as a joke? No more. The rapidly growing English industry looms as a potential future rival to many established cool-climate producers in global markets, having moved from novelty to serious player in just a few years.
Nyetimber Vineyard in Sussex
Burgeoning demand for brands such as Nyetimber and Ridgeview has seen a doubling of the amount of land in England devoted to vineyards in the last seven years - and 43% last year in wine production. That is 6.3 million bottles of English wine made in 2014, around two-thirds of it bubbly. 

And even Wimbledon is getting in on the act, the All England Lawn Tennis Club having selected Bolney Wine Estate Pinot Gris 2014 to be served in its corporate areas this year, purchasing 400 bottles from the West Sussex winemaker. 

The same wine has also been selected to be served in British Airways first class cabins. 

The UK Vineyards Association says there are now 470 vineyards in England and Wales, and 135 wineries, with up-market store Harvey Nichols launching its own brand.

The Waitrose supermarket chain, which stocks more than 100 English and Welsh wines, has reported a 177% increase in sales of domestic brands over the past year.

Waitrose’s English wine buyer, Rebecca Hull, said there was “real momentum” in the English wine industry.

“The success of English wine is a culmination of dedication and effort from some talented winemakers across the country who have gradually built the reputation of our wines from the ground up,” she says.

And more weight was added to the English argument last week when former winner of the Best Sommelier of the World award, Gerard Basset, spoke up for English wine at a masterclass of the first day of Vinexpo 2015 in Bordeaux. 

Basset, a Frenchman no less, albeit one based in England, told a gathering of influencers from around the globe that “English wine is like New Zealand in the 1980s. At that time, New Zealand was not very well known, but now it is considered a very serious wine producer.”

He added that English wine is now in a “very exciting place” notwithstanding the fact that most of the UK is cold and wet, although it is thought that global warming may encourage major growth in the future. Chardonnay, pinot noir and the hybrid grape bacchus are most planted grape varieties. 

The southern counties of Sussex, Kent and Surrey are among the focus points right now with vineyards as far east as Norfolk and as far north as Yorkshire. For more details visit:

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