Rising consumer demand for English and Welsh wine both at home and abroad could see annual sales approach £100m by the end of 2015, according to industry estimates.

Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire, southern England

English wine is set to be an important export business in the coming years, the UK secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA), Elizabeth Truss MP, told the Oxford Farming Conference today (7 January).

Her speech followed a claim by her department that total retail sales of English wine could hit £100m this year.

Trade body English Wine Producers (EWP) cautioned that the figure was only a rough estimate based on retail sales figures and the amount of extra wine entering the market due to a strong rise in vineyard plantings over the past few years. Sales in 2014 were estimated at £78m.

Julia Trustram Eve, marketing director for EWP, said she expects the sector’s ‘steady sales growth’ to continue this year. She said the industry in general was in buoyant mood heading into 2015, particularly following a strong 2014 harvest.

‘Exports are definitely going to be a significant area of growth over the next few years,’ she said. Only a small proportion of English and Welsh wines are currently sent abroad, but DEFRA said that English sparkling wine is now being shipped to 13 countries.

Several larger players in the industry, such as Chapel Down and Ridgeview, have said they are working harder to increase exports.

A growing number of English winemakers are also lobbying the government to ensure that English wine is served in more British embassies around the world, to increase its profile.

Ridgeview’s Bloomsbury 2011 was recently served to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their tour of New York, according to the government.

‘The important thing is that it’s good wine, not just that it’s English,’ said Trustram Eve.

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Written by Chris Mercer