English wine producers fear 'British' confusion

  • Wednesday 31 August 2011

Sales of British wine have surged over the last year, causing a headache for English and Welsh wine producers.

Ridgeview Wineries, Sussex

English vineyards: not British

Figures released by analyst Nielsen show that value sales of British wine – as distinct from English and Welsh wine - have risen by 45% over the last year to £26m, with a 30% rise by volume.

This has led to increased concern amongst English and Welsh winemakers that consumers are confused by the two styles.

There is a clear technical distinction between British wine, which is made from imported grape concentrate and fermented and bottled in the UK, and English and Welsh wine that is grown in a defined region.

British wine is commonly medium or sweet, either still or fortified, and sells for between £3.50 and £6.00 a bottle – considerably cheaper than English wine.

A typical example is Silver Bay Point, according to Neilsen one of the fastest-growing British wines, which is marketed as a low-alcohol, low-calorie 'fresh and fruity' style and is sold in most UK supermarkets.

One of the reasons for British wine’s success, according to Jeremy Beadles of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association, is its price.

‘Obviously in a time of recession where people are looking to make savings, consumers are looking for cheaper options, and British wine is one of those cheaper options,’ said Beadles.

Julia Trustram Eve of industry association English Wine Producers said: ‘English wine is of superior quality to British wine as it’s made from freshly grown, crushed and fermented grapes.

‘Undoubtedly the English and British labelling issue leads to some confusion where consumers have selected a bottle of British wine mistaking it for English or Welsh wine.’

Gavin Partington of the WSTA, however, said there was no major problem.

‘I don’t think that there is much confusion. Enthusiasm has grown for both sectors. They are both well established in the market.

‘English wine has a huge reputation for quality and British wine offers something different, being sold at a lower price point.’

Sales of English wine at Waitrose, which has a 65% share of the English wine market, have risen by almost 25% over the last 52 weeks.

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