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British wine industry increased plantings by 74% over the past five years

Soaring demand for English and Welsh wine has inspired producers to increase the total land under vine by 74% over the past five years.

There are now 943 vineyards spread across Great Britain, accounting for 3,928 hectares under vine, according to a new report from trade group WineGB.

England has 3,855ha under vine, while 70.3ha of Wales and 1.9ha of Scotland are now dedicated to viticulture too.

The industry produced 12.2 million bottles in 2022, which represents a 130% increase on the 5.3 million bottles produced in 2017. Sparkling wine accounts for 68% of production, a figure that has remained pretty consistent over the past five years.

Viticulture is now the fastest growing agricultural sector in the UK, according to official government figures.

It employs 2,300 people on a full-time basis, while a further 8,300 people are employed in part-time or seasonal work.

WineGB surveyed its members on how the next decade will unfold, and it received responses from companies accounting for more than 90% of the country’s production.

The respondents predicted that the total area under vine in Great Britain will increase to 7,600ha by 2032. They also expect production to hit 25 million to 29 million bottles per year by that point.

Sam Linter, chair of WineGB, said: ‘These truly are exciting times for English and Welsh wine. We have become an internationally acclaimed wine growing region of the highest quality.’

Kent is a hotspot for wine production, as it accounts for 1,033ha under vine – 26% of the country’s total plantings.

West Sussex and East Sussex account for 570ha and 493ha respectively, while Hampshire’s total vineyard has increased to 380ha. Essex also has 325ha under vine.

Chardonnay is the most widely planted variety. It accounts for 31% of total plantings, followed by Pinot Noir (29%), Pinot Meunier (9%), Bacchus (8%) and Seyval (3%).

During the pandemic, the direct-to-consumer channel accounted for 57% of all sales of English and sparkling wine.

However, it has now decreased to 30%. The largest channel is the retail trade – supermarkets and independent stores – which accounts for 41% of sales, followed by direct to consumer (30%), bars and restaurants (22%) and exports (7%).

WineGB expects growth in all categories going forward: ‘Consumers are demanding more locally produced, environmentally friendly products, something that English and Welsh wines are in a unique position to deliver,’ said interim CEO Ned Awty.

Tourism has also increased post-pandemic, with visitor numbers at Great British wineries increasing by 17% year-on-year in 2022. It now accounts for 24% of revenue for the industry, according to WineGB’s survey.

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