English wines are roasting spectacular success with best sales ever
English wine makers are toasting a spectacular success this Bank Holiday with record sales on the high street.
Once laughed off as cheap plonk due its questionable sweet taste, home produced sparkling, whites and reds are booming thanks to similar soil and temperatures as France’s Champagne region in the south of England.
Last month producers picked up a record breaking 120 medals in the International Wine Challenge 2016, the industry’s most prestigious awards, surpassing last year’s 94 medals.
Now the popularity of English wines on the high street is being celebrating as Marks and Spencer said sales had increased by 75 per cent this summer, while Waitrose had doubled the number of bottles sold.
Booths and Lidl also added English wines to its stores earlier this year, joining Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
English wines are enjoying spectacular success
Production is set to double by 2050 to 10 million bottles. And experts believe Brexit could bring a further boom to the wine industry, which broke £1bn sales for the first time earlier this year.
Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said: “English wine has never been in a better place. Our wine producers are now gaining global recognition for making some of the best wines in the world. This is reflected in the impressive collection of awards won in the last few years.
“Post Brexit there are huge opportunities which could see the English industry grow even more the predicted and without fear of production limits imposed by EU red tape.”
English vineyards were a common sight in the countryside over the centuries, introduced by the Romans but by the end of First World War most disappeared.
Now it is back in demand again and proving to be a billion-pound shot in the arm for the economy.
English wines are making a comeback
Hambledon Vineyard is England’s oldest commercial vineyard in Hampshire,
planted in 1952. It’s now owned by former banker Ian Kellett who bought it in 1990 and hopes to produce a million bottles by 2020.
Recent accolades include a gold and silver in the 2016 International Wine Challenge for their premiere and classic curve sparkling wines.
Orders are now coming in from as far as Australia and Japan but the vineyard is struggling to keep up with demand.
“We don’t have enough to go around,” Ian said. “But one of the best things about this is taking something that is quintessentially French and doing it better.
“England will become a mass sparkling wine producer soon because of our land prices are cheaper and geology being so similar to Champagne region as we have the same chalky soil in the south of England.
“And we have better weather patterns here because of global warming.”
England will be a mass producer of sparkling wine soon
The Roberts family of Ridgeview have been crafting traditional method sparkling wines for 20 years.
It’s run by a second generation husband and wife team Simon and Mardi Roberts, who took over from Simon’s dad Mike. In 2012 Ridgeview Bloomsbury,
2009, was served for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and also earlier this year at Eddie Redmayne’s Oscars party.
Mardi said: “We have the opportunity to make history in the English wine industry right now.
“The reason the UK wine is doing so well now is because of the length of the growing season. We can now get the grapes ripe and get natural acidity.
“It was really hard to be taken seriously 20 years ago but thanks to blind tastings and picking up prestigious awards, we can now start celebrating our wine.”
People are really celebrating English wine
Frazer Thompson, chief executive of Chapel Down in Tenterden, Kent, of one the country’s biggest producers of sparkling wine, said one of the biggest challenges was convincing people that English wines were any good.
“In the past, as soon as you told them it was English wine there was a huge barrier.”
But that has all changed he explained citing a “a gold rush on the North and South Downs”.
Last year a team from the WSTA travelled across the Channel for the first time to set up the tests with some of the biggest names in the Gallic restaurant and bar trade.
Many were convinced some of the UK-produced fizz was from France and in most cases prefered it to Champagne.
The success has led to French Champagne houses, such as Tattinger and Pommery, investing in the south of England.