The UK wine industry is to receive £1.6m to address the lack of winemakers trained to deal with the unpredictable British weather and terroir conditions.
The money – a combination of European Commission grant and matching UK government funds – will be administered by Sussex-based Plumpton College.
‘A lot of our wine students end up working for wineries overseas,’ said Chris Foss, Plumpton’s head of wine studies.
‘We have never found a cost-effective way to deliver education to those already working in wine here because they are so spread out – from Yorkshire to Land’s End.’
The bulk of funding will subsidise course fees – for a programme that is currently in development – over the next five years.
‘We will be able to bring the courses to those working on the ground, and address the specifics of winemaking here. If someone in Devon calls and says “we have trouble with our malolactic fermentation”, we can send an expert to teach them how to handle this,’ said Foss.
Lack of knowledge about local terroir is not the only issue facing the industry, say local winemakers like Roger White of Yearlstone Vineyard in Devon.
‘No doubt the industry could benefit from extra training,’ said White, who last year offered his own one-day practical workshops in the business aspects of winemaking and vineyard management.
‘But the major problem is for such a tiny industry, we are disproportionately taxed and regulated – duty is now £2 per bottle payable up front. It would make a much bigger impact on those wanting to set up a winery if we were offered something like a 10,000 litre duty-free allowance.’
WATCH our brilliant new How to store wine video with Steven Spurrier
Written by Maggie Rosen