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UK vineyard area up by half since 2004

UK vineyard area has grown by 45% over the last four years with 1,106 hectares now under vine.

The latest production and vineyard figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, collected after the 2008 harvest, show year on year growth in planting is continuing.

The number of vineyards has also increased year on year since 2002, with 416 now recorded.

The figures are collated by the Wine Standards Branch of the Food Standards Agency, which holds the vineyard register.

Vineyards that are planted but not yet in production are not all registered, which indicates vineyard planting is higher than officially recorded.

The extra vines have been mostly planted by or by suppliers of two of the biggest producers, Chapel Down and Nyetimber.

Another major new entrant is the supermarket Waitrose, which has started planting Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes at its Leckford Estate in Hampshire.

Stephen Skelton MW, author of the UK Vineyards Guide, believes the actual vineyard area figures are considerably higher: ‘My own estimate is that planted area in 2008 was nearer 1,250 ha’.

‘At least 100 ha of vines were planted in 2009, brining the total at the end of May 2009, to around 1,350 ha.’

The figures also show a marked increase in the planting of traditional grape varieties, with Pinot Noir making up 19% of total hectarage, with 250 ha, and Chardonnay 17%, with 225 ha.

Bacchus accounts for 10% of total planting, illustrating a trend for the aromatic white variety in still wine production.

Sparkling varieties now account for 40% of all UK plantings, rising significantly over the past six years since the hot summer of 2003.

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Written by Lucy Shaw

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