Open up the corks – English vineyards are set to double in capacity and production over the next seven years.
The merry growth predictions were revealed by Sussex-based wine venture Rathfinny Wine, which expects to produce one million bottles of sparkling and fine wines per year by 2020 – as its 75 hectares of land currently under vine swells to 162 hectares and expands full-time staff numbers from 26 to 91.
It came during a visit to the site, which was founded in 2010 with the intention to compete globally, by four MPs: Tim Loughton, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Wine and Spirits; along with local Lewes MP Maria Caulfield; MP for Bexhill and Battle Huw Merriman; and MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond.
Rathfinny Estate owner Mark Driver said the visit was aimed at opening the government’s eyes to the “potential of the UK wine industry” as well as explaining the importance of its application to have a European PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) for the region –which would allow future wines to be labelled as “Sussex”, made from grapes sourced there.
“These are exciting times for all those involved in the production of English wine and we are extremely encouraged that the MP’s were able to see this first hand,” said Driver.
“We are confident our Sussex sparkling wine will rival the best in the world. This rapidly growing industry creates skilled jobs, it has become a hotspot for tourism and as well contributing to the UK economy it has significant potential to do extremely well globally.
“We hope to see English still and sparkling wines being showcased at all government hosted events and in parliament. These award-winning English wines are a product we should be proud of.”
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Chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) Miles Beale added: “Rathfinny are a shining example of how English Vineyards are on the up, growing on average 11 per cent a year over the last ten years. If this trend continues the land coverage of English Vineyards will double over the next seven years.
“The English Wine industry has the quality and technical capability to compete globally and – with capacity increasing rapidly – it represents great export potential for our economy. Vineyards are fast becoming hotspots for rural tourism with more than 100 out of 470 vineyards opening their doors to the public, offering tours, on-site eateries and shops. There has been a 65 per cent increase in visitors this year.”
According to latest figures there are currently 470 vineyards and 135 wineries producing an average of 3.15m bottles a year in the UK. In 2013 there were 1,884 hectares (4655 acres) under vine in England and Wales – the equivalent of 2,645 full sized football pitches.
Tim Loughton MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Wine and Spirits, added: “There is a huge opportunity for English wine makers to export their award winning wines across the globe and we hope to work with the industry to bring yet more jobs and investment into UK’s growing economy.
“We will be making the case to government for greater support for businesses in our emerging English Wine industry, so that it can compete with the best home and abroad. This is an industry which is taking on the best wines in France and the new world and increasingly winning against some of the most established names around. It is a quality British product which we should be championing loudly and enthusiastically.”