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English wine industry reaches 'historic turning point'

Published:  14 October, 2014

The English wine industry has reached an "historic turning point" says the head of one of the country's most-respected estates.

Chapel DownThe English wine industry has reached an 'historic turning point'Chapel Down's chief executive Frazer Thompson says this year's harvest, growing interest for consumers, and a host of new entrants has boosted English wines' fortunes.

Frazer Thompson, chief executive of Chapel Down estate in Kent, points to the "quality and quantity" of the 2014 harvest, consumers willing to invest in the industry, and the 48% rise in new winemakers in the past year.  

Thompson told "I am quite certain that 2014 will go down in the history of English wines as something of a historic turning point. Although we have already won the International accolades and plaudits and slowly turned a sceptical public and press into customers and believers, this year will go down as remarkable for three reasons."

He cited the "perfectly constructed" harvest, as well as a growing focus on quality as producers were prepared to sacrifice bigger yields and pick only the best fruit, as helping in the first instance.

Secondly, Chapel Down itself has had major success with its crowd funding, after it smashed records by raising £2.9 million through 1,100 investors in just 10 days. This showed "the marketing-led appetitie from consumers to investors for great brands in English wine", Thompson said.

Frazer Thompson, chief executive officer, Chapel Down

The third ingredient is the sheer number of new entrants into the English wine industry in the past year. New figures from HMRC show the number of wine producers has increased from 31 in 2012/13 to 46 last year.  A report from chartered accountants UHY Hacker Young attributed the growth, 80% in just five years - to increasing interest in niche, locally-sourced food and drink".

Roy Maugham, head of tax at the firm said: "Consumer interest in boutique products continues to grow. Food products, such as artisan cheeses and organically reared meats, and drinks such as craft beer and artisan spirits have been the focus of increased demand. Now, we're seeing the same thing in the UK's once-mocked wine industry."

"English wines have enjoyed a genuine renaissance over the last couple of years and are now being taken seriously on the international stage."

Better weather conditions over the past few years have helped new producers prosper and "will have encouraged other companies to apply to register as producers so they can lay the foundations for future harvests," Maugham added.

Thompson said 2014 represents "the start of a journey for many new entrants who will find out just how challenging, costly, competitive and uncompromising the world of wine can be and the business of brands in particular. The starting gun was fired in 2014 and some have got a long way to go to catch up, and others no time at all to rest on their laurels. This is where it gets exciting."