Operations & Events Manager
HMRC figures show that 3.86 million bottles of sparkling and still wine made in UK vineyards were released for sale in 2017.
Last year’s bumper bottle count was up 64% on 2016 when 2.36 million bottles were released.
In 2000 just 1.34 million bottles were released from bond and since then the numbers have steadily risen with some years faring better than others.
The English wine industry is reaping the benefits from a huge investment in the sector leading to an increase in vines planted over the last ten years.
English sparkling wine is made in the same traditional method as Champagne, meaning it is left to age in the bottle, usually for about three years.
Not only did English vineyards have a bumper harvest in 2014, but last year saw several vineyards release of a range of special edition and older vintage wines.
The growth in output from the English wine sector is set for a further boost this year when the UK’s largest single estate vineyard releases its first sparkling wine.
Next month Rathfinny Wine Estate in Sussex will launch its sparkling, Blanc de Blancs, after bottling its first wine in May 2015. The family run wine estate will increase the English wine portfolio and aims to eventually reach production of over 80,000 cases by 2025.
Rathfinny is a shining example of the investment and growth taking place in the English wine sector in recent years. So far, the estate has planted 250,000 vines on a former arable farm in the South Downs and intends to plant a further 250,000 vines over the next five years.
Sparkling wine accounts for 66% of all English and Welsh wine produced and has gained global recognition for its quality.
Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said:
“English wine releases reached a record high in 2017 with more varietals and vintages available, giving consumers a greater choice than ever before. This is great news for English winemakers who have been gaining international recognition over the past few years, leading to an impressively stocked trophy cabinet. With the high quality of English now so widely recognised, the wine industry’s newest challenge is meeting growing demand. The English wine industry is a true British success story and has ambitious plans to increase exports. We hope to see production continue to grow and forge ahead with new export opportunities.”
Mark Driver, co-founder of Rathfinny Wine Estate said:
“We’re very excited to be releasing our first Sussex Sparkling wines this year. There seems to be a lot excitement about the launch and the wines are being well received. It was always our belief that if we could make a sparkling wine that could match, or even better, some of the best sparkling wines in the world then there would be a ready market for our wines in the UK and overseas.
“English sparkling wines are winning awards in international competitions and the talk of the town in New York and Hong Kong. We expect to export up to 50% of our wines over the next few years.
“In the last 10 years the area of planted vines has more than doubled with a million vines being planted in the UK in both 2017 and planned for in 2018. It’s expected the area under vine to reach over 3000 hectares by 2020 from 2200 hectares currently.
“The success of English sparkling wines has led Champagne houses to invest in vineyards in the south of England as the chalky soils and climate are very similar to those found in the Champagne region.”
Earlier this month Vranken-Pommery became the first of the big Champagne houses to release an English sparkling wine. The fizz is made in partnership with Hampshire’s Hattingley Valley and sold under the Louis Pommery England label.