This week, Nusrat Ghani MP (Con, Wealden) put forward the industry’s case for serving English wine at UK overseas missions to Parliament. The 10 Minute Rule Bill aims to ensure British embassies and consulates overseas purchase and serve English and Welsh wine and sparkling wine at events and functions. WSTA Parliamentary Affairs Manager, Rebekah Kendrick, highlights the value that MPs’ support brings to the UK’s wine businesses.
I recently went on long weekend break to Hungary and (being the devoted employee that I am) tracked down some of the best wine bars in Budapest to taste the local Tokaji and Egri Bikavér (told you I was dedicated).
As an established and celebrated cool-climate wine producing country, one wine shop in particular was clearly serious about its wine - and training their staff for that matter, who had both completed their WSET diplomas (another Great British export!). As I got chatting to one of their in-house experts I was surprised to hear her waxing lyrical about some delicious English wine they tried at a tasting in the city just the week before.
My surprise didn’t stem from them raving about the wine itself; I know (only too well) the exceptional quality of still and sparkling English wines and their award winning prowess. What surprised me was that I hadn’t quite realised the reach and influence home-grown wine was having on the rest of the world. In my head, I thought it was still probably even slightly niche in the UK and that I had been exposed to it purely because I’m immersed in the industry and surrounded on a regular basis by passionate enthusiasts. So to find it here in an excited Hungarian wine shop was a delightful revelation. The entire wine shop itself chose only to showcase Hungarian wine, which further highlighted just how important it is to boast about our own products.
Peter Ustinov’s idea of hell was “Italian punctuality, German humour and English wine.” It’s ironic that such a renowned bon-viveur could have got it so wrong – at least about the wine bit. Our sparkling wines are fresh and vibrant with fruit character, and have been given the green light - or gold sticker - by some of the world’s leading wine experts. A foot, if not two feet and a hand have been placed on the ladder which is something to celebrate. This is exactly why Nusrat Ghani’s Ten Minute Rule Bill is so important. We know English wine is outstanding, but the rest of the world doesn’t quite yet. This Bill will give wine producers the platform they need to really get a foothold in the world and help meet their challenging export aspirations of 2.5 million bottles per year by 2020 with the wholehearted support of Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
From securing an English Wine round table with Defra last year, helping ensure that English wine is offered in 10 Downing Street, to creating opportunities for members to serve at ad hoc Government receptions, the WSTA has been working hard to secure concrete commitment from Government to serve English wine and British spirits. Nusrat’s motion was another important step in our efforts to ensure the scale, potential and ambition of the industry is represented. This time, abroad.
It is hard to imagine this sort of support from Parliament even ten years ago. However now we are seeing more and more Parliamentarians engage and lend their much-appreciated support to the cause. Ideas such as our English wine tasting with Matthew Jukes are a great example of really helping to raise the whole industry’s profile among MPs.
We are hugely grateful that Nusrat was able to put forward this Bill for us and we hope this is another important step to compel Government to serve British.