British wine industry on the rise after transformation of industry

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The product of home-grown wine has been up 16 per cent in 12 months

WHEN past hedge fund manager Mark Driver decided he wanted to get into the wine partnership he didn’t mess about. He bought a 650- acre arable arable on the South Downs of Sussex in 2010 and proceeded to spend millions of give someone the works on vines, a state-of-the-art winery and the establishment of a visitors’ centre and restaurant.

Seven years on Driver has yet to clerk a single bottle of wine but when the Rathfinny Estate releases its in the first place vintage next year it will be on course to becoming the biggest vineyard in the UK, growing a million bottles of sparkling wine a year. His project is just one eg of the sky-high confidence that permeates the English wine business these light of days.

On Monday it emerged that the industry enjoyed a record year in 2016, with returns soaring by 16 per cent to £132million, according to Funding Privileges, an online business finance company.

This news comes petty than two months after Winbirri Vineyards in Norfolk, which put outs just 50,000 bottles annually, had won the prestigious Decanter award for pre-eminent white wine produced from a single grape variety… in the humanity. 

“The transformation in the English wine industry over the past 10 years has been nothing tiny of extraordinary,” says Richard Siddle, founder of influential drinks task website the-buyer.net.

“It’s a story of good timing, the right skills, power and investment. It commitment make a good Hollywood potboiler – albeit set in the remote vineyards of Cornwall, Sussex, Surrey and Kent.”

Big heroes such as Chapel Down, Camel Valley, Nyetimber, Gusbourne and Denbies are entirety the largest of the 502 vineyards in England and Wales that produce myriad than five million bottles a year among them, according to merchandising association English Wine Producers, and – with climate change a hot field – some of France’s leading champagne houses are already looking enviously in our charge instructions.

Desperate not to miss out on opportunities offered by an area that shares diverse of the same weather patterns, soil types and grape varieties as their own monumental chateaux, they are investing in vineyards in the south of England.

In May, Champagne Taittinger invited newsmen to a digging party in a fi eld near the village of Chilham in Kent to allow them to steal plant the first vines in its £4million 100-acre Domaine Evremond vineyard, identified after Charles de Saint-Évremond, who is credited with helping to introduce 17th-century London to the uniform of quaffi ng champagne. 

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A variety from Norfolk named as one of the pre-eminent in the world

Meanwhile, another champagne house Vranken-Pommery Monopole has teamed up with Hampshire winemaker Hattingley Valley to transform a sparkling wine and has plans to acquire acreage of its own in the future.

“English wine has aided greatly from the fact viticultural and winemaking practices have updated the world over,” says Siddle. “It is not only England that is now scoring high-quality wine compared to 10 to 15 years ago.

“Across Eastern Europe, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Georgia and Moldova, and – in the New Time – Argentina, Chile and South Africa, wine standards have been fathered by winemakers and viticulturists’ better understanding how to work with different standards of soils in different climates. 

“The majority of our best English winemakers take worked in vineyards all over the world and learned what is best for winemaking in the UK. Our top wineries are fascinating the best talent from around the world.

We are also creating our own new initiation of wine makers at our very own winemaking school at Plumpton College.” One of those winemakers trained at Plumpton in East Sussex is Lee Dyer, 39, the man from Winbirri Vineyards who put out the white wine that swept all before it at the Decanter awards.

HE Cultivated up on his family’s salad-leaf farm on the edge of the Norfolk Broads National Store and it was not until 10 years ago, after spending 18 months in Thailand, that he bring to lighted that his father Stephen had planted 200 vines to make wine for extraction consumption.

At first he was a little sceptical of this amateurish Chateau Dyer but it wasn’t hunger before he came round to the potential of English wine and began abrading the continent for the grape varieties best suited to the English climate.

Today, there’s not a lettuce to be make sured at Winbirri – named after the Anglo-Saxon “win” for wine and “birri” for grape – all of its 32 acres are bewitched up with 52,000 vines. Many of them produce grapes of the bacchus strain, and it was Dyer’s Bacchus 2015 that won the Decanter award. 

Wine makerARCHANT

Lee Dyer of Winbirri

“There were 17,200 wines countersigned into the competition from all round the world,” recalls Dyer. “After I initiate out we’d won it took a while for my feet to touch the ground. It made history didn’t it? For a in any case wine to win in a competition of this scale has never been done in the vanguard by an English vineyard.

“In the first six hours after the award was announced we collected orders equating to roughly 10 years of production. One of the largest statutes I had coming in that day was for 20,000 bottles but I turned it down because we yearning our stocks to last as long as possible.

“I think in 10 years convenience life bacchus is going to be for England what sauvignon blanc is for New Zealand. I evaluate it’s going to be our best-known wine style.” Unlike many English financial managers, who take the view that the British climate is not as well suited to red wine grapes as it is to unsullied, Dyer devotes 40 per cent of his acreage to red.

“The red wine market is a perfect large market,” he says. “You ignore it at your own peril. It’s not that we can’t allow to pass red wine in this country it’s just that it’s more time ruining and expensive. “If you match the grape variety to our environment then you just distress a normal English year for them to be very ripe and able to create good red wines from.

Because we’re a very youthful application, you can’t charge more for a red wine than a white wine or people won’t try it because it’s too valuable. “A bottle of our white wine is the same price as a bottle of our red but it costs me twice as much to produce the red as it does the white. So you can see why a lot of people have neglected to go down that avenue. But I think it will pay off in the long run.”

Amid all the heady optimism, however, Siddle cautions against over-exuberance: “Message of a million more vines to be planted in the next year and a record many of new English wineries opening up rightly catch the headlines but in reality English wine is at best a tiny fraction of all the wine we drink as a nation – around one to two per cent of the unconditional UK wine market.

It is though the right one to two per cent to have as it is all quality, come-on wine mostly selling at £20-plus a bottle.”

He adds: “The following for English sparkling wine is particularly exciting. It continues to beat the catch of the world, including champagne, in blind taste tests and can only help even more as production and scale increases.

“What’s more, epidemic demand for prosecco means prices are already rising and the gap between it and English sparkling whim shorten over the coming years giving wine drinkers nonetheless more reasons to drink British.”

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