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English Wine Producers revises ambitious target downwards

Published:  16 July, 2014

English Wine Producers has revised downwards ambitious targets of reaching £100 million worth of sales by next year, saying instead sales of £60 million are more likely.

While the industry has been enjoying strong growth over the past few years, mainly in sparkling wine, a poor 2012 harvest has hindered the next phase of its development.

"We're certainly heading towards £100 million in sales, but it won't be by 2015," said Julia Trustram-Eve, marketing director for the body, who said it could take up to five years to hit £100 million. She said the initial estimates were made in 2009 and 2010, based on changing trends around consumption, volumes based on hectarage planted and then matched to retail sales. Given that sparkling wines are matured for between two and four years before release it is harder to estimate figures.

Unpredictable, and often poor, English weather is one of the biggest challenges for producers, with 2012 being a particularly difficult year. UK vineyards produced just 1.03 million bottles in that year, a third of 2011's production of 3.02 million bottles.

Last year's harvest was a record of the industry, which made 33,384 hectolitres or 4.5 million bottles of wine, which will help boost depleted stocks. Trustram-Eve added: "2013 has put us back on course and supplies from 2013 will contribute to the ongoing rise in production and sales of English wine. 2015 is more likely to see nearer 4 million bottles therefore, and around £60m or so in value."

The £60 million figure is approximate cost less duty/VAT whereas the £100 million was based on a full retail value.

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

According to 2012 figures, there are 432 vineyards in the UK, up from 419 in 2011 and from 416 in 2008. While the number of vineyards has not increased dramatically over the last few years, many  have expanded their land holdings and plantings. 2012 figures say 1,438 hectares are now under vine, compared to 1,106 in 2008.

The industry has been gaining momentum in the past 10 to 15 years, and many of its wines have received top accolades.