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  • Writer's pictureNelly Ward

Great British Wine - exactly what it sounds!

To mark the English Wine Week, I thought I'd write what I think about English Wines (though we should not forget about the rest of the UK, so when you say Great British Wine, not only it sounds very proud, it is actually accurate).

The tone of the above introduction word must have already given away how fond I am of local wines. It wasn't love from the first sip, though. Some 15 years ago, when I had a chance to try the English Sparkling, I didn't really taste to me much different to an English Sider (which on a sunny day with ice in a glass was more welcomed than a glass of bubbles with the same squeaky acidity, high sugar to mask it, and not much more flavour past the apple and lemon). Fast-forward to the present day, and I'm blown away by how much it evolved. The traditional method Sparkling has been giving Champagne a run for its money for a good several years now (no wonder the French started buying the vineyards here), however, recently the still Whites (and to a lesser extent Roses and even Reds) started to shine as well. And I absolutely fell in love with them, I can't advocate it enough. So let's shine a bit more light on the Great British Wine scene and show you the industry in numbers.

Barely starting from the 1980s, when there were only 211ha planted with vines, the vineyard area has exploded in the last decade when 2,200ha were added, and now surpassed the 4,000ha mark. The vast majority of the vines are in England, with under 100ha in Wales and just over 1ha scattered between Scotland and Channel Islands.

Chardonnay proudly holds the first place by the area planted, followed closely by Pinot Noir, which together amount to around 60% of all plantings. Production volumes vary year on year (surprise, surprise, Global Warming or not - English weather is still a thing) with over 5m bottles produced in 2017, rising to over 13m in 2018 and levelling itself to around 9m in the last couple of years. Regardless of the production volumes the distribution stays more or less 70/30 between sparkling and still wines.

In 2022 the total number of registered vineyards has reached 897 with 197 wineries, which contributes to the rural economy by providing over 10,000 full-time jobs in a vast range of areas from the essential roles in the vineyards and wineries, to administration, sales, tourism and hospitality. And I must say that the Wine Tourism scene is booming now - from simple vineyard tours and tastings, to high cuisine restaurants on site and astonishing accommodation. Stronger infrastructure within the wineries is translated into a high percentage of Cellar Doors sales, which now together with own online sales, represents over 50%. The British definitely started to appreciate the local produce driving domestic sales up year on year, but the fame is spreading outside of the UK and the exports are rising to almost 5% with Scandinavia, Japan and USA leading the way.

I have no doubts about the bright future for the Great British Wine Industry and I am proud to play my part not just by consuming a fair share (😁) but also by showcasing the wines at my tastings.

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