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Published:  23 July, 2008

By David Williams

Kent-based wine producer New Wave Wines is to expand its vineyard holdings by almost 500ha a year for the next few years', to meet growing demand for English wines and take advantage of the UK's increasingly warm climate. Our sales have risen by 30% in the past year, and we can foresee a time when we will run out of places to source grapes,' said New Wave MD, Frazer Thompson. I'm not a meteorologist, but you hear a lot about the temperature rising by 5oC over the next five years; we're looking to turn the South East of England into the Burgundy and Champagne of the north.' The news comes at the end of a week when the English wine industry has been trumpeting its best-ever vintage. According to the industry's generic body, English Wine Producers, quantity was up 30% on the average yield of the past five years to an estimated 18,000hl, the largest since the industry's biggest-ever vintage in 1996. I think potentially it's the best ever,' said Martin Fowke, director of winemaking at Three Choirs in Gloucestershire. Previously we've had good vintages but the yields have been low. This year we've had superb quality and quantity, and every variety has performed better. The early-ripening varieties have good sugar levels, and we've been getting natural alcohol as high as 14%. There will be a lot of very interesting reserve wines.' Thompson added: It's too early to talk of great vintages, because you need skilled winemakers to make the wines, but in the great pantheon of English vintages, there's no question that in this vintage there's higher quality, higher sugar, better balance. The reds and aromatic whites will be incredible, but the good news is that the acidity is still there to make great sparkling wines, too.'