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English wine producers celebrate 'relief' of record 2013 harvest

Published:  08 May, 2014

English vineyards are celebrating a bumper 2013 harvest as new plantings nudge figures to 33,384 hectolitres or almost 4.5 million bottles, helping alleviate depleted stocks after poor harvests in the past two years.

In the last seven years, hectarage has double with 500 ha planted just in the last two years. Sparkling wine now makes up two thirds of England's total production with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier making up 45% of recent plantings, followed by indigenous grape Bacchus.

Chapel Down vineyardChapel Down vineyardHarvest gets underway at Kent's Chapel Down vineyard, which is 'relieved' at 2013's bumper crop, coming on the back of two poor harvests.

The previous record was for 4 million bottles back in 2010. In 2011 and 2012 the industry was dogged by bad weather and poor harvests leading to low yields. Kent's Chapel Down was "frustrated" by stock shortages and saw sales fall 24% in 2013, thanks to smaller yields in the two preceding years. However, given demand for English wine is still high, it managed to increased overall sales revenue by 4% by raising the average selling price of its wines by 10%.

Speaking to chief executive Frazer Thompson said 2013's larger crop would "certainly make a difference". "The only downside to English wine is the volatility of harvest. It's very unusual to have two low-yielding harvests in a row. 2013 came as a huge relief to us and consumers who have been rationed for the last 18 months as stocks have gradually been depleted. We now have stock and are back on the front foot."

Chapel Down is planting more vines every year, and last year raised £4.5 million to do specifically that.  

Sam Lindo, winemaker at Camel Valley in Cornwall, said the winery made its most wine ever in 2013. "We prepared for it [the large harvest] and we have more production space which was great because it gives flexibility. We are able to have a contigency plan which was good last year. We could increase production if needs be."

Julia Trustram Eve, marketing director for English Wine Producers said: "2013 was an excellent year for many UK vineyards, with a welcome long, warm summer that has resulted in some great quality wines as well as the highest ever volume produced. This is a growing industry, with demand still exceeding supply and the planting continues, with a number of new vineyards being established this year."