Around three million vines have been planted in England and Wales this year, nearly double the amount planted in 2018 and up from one million in 2017, according to trade body WineGB.
That means the UK now has an estimated 3,500 hectares of vineyards, up by 24% versus a year ago, said WineGB. A spokesperson said most most of the new plantings were believed to be the classic ‘Champagne’ trio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, plus Bacchus, although precise figures were not yet available.
It will take several years for new vines to produce commercial wines and the total is still small on a global scale – Champagne has around 34,000ha planted – but the pace of growth reflects the industry’s confidence.
WineGB’s figures came as results from the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) 2019 revealed a host of medals for UK wineries, including three Platinum Best in Show medals; two for Chapel Down and one for Wiston Estate.
Confidence has also been boosted in the industry by a bumper crop of high quality grapes in 2018 and a stronger presence for UK-made wines in retailers and restaurants – many of which have been running events and promotions for English Wine Week, according to WineGB.
Simon Robinson, chairman of WineGB, said, ‘Last year we set out our vision that in the next 20 years, at the rate of current growth, we could be producing some 40 million bottles per year. We’re certainly heading towards that.’ The 2018 vintage was expected to yield 15.6m bottles.
Stephen Skelton, regional chair for the UK at DWWA, told Decanter.com that the industry’s expansion with more planting and new producers was ‘all good news’.
He said that it was difficult to estimate the potential size of the market for English sparkling wine, just as nobody predicted how big Prosecco would become in the UK.
He added, ‘There will be some price wars when all these new acres come on-stream, but that’s good news for consumers.’
While 69% of UK wines are sparkling, there has also been rising interest in the potential of still wines in recent years, particularly from Bacchus, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Chapel Down’s Kit’s Coty Chardonnay 2016 won a Platinum Best in Show medal at DWWA 2019, for example.
‘If the 2019 edition of DWWA proves anything, it is that we can now say without any doubt that Chardonnay can ripen satisfactorily in the UK,’ said awards judges in their note on the wine.
Plantings in the UK could rise further in the coming years. Gusbourne has already said it will plant an extra 23 hectares of vines in 2020, next to its current vineyards in West Sussex, for example.