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English wine gears up for bumper 2015

Published:  07 January, 2015

English wine is gearing up for another cracking year as its sales edge closer to the ambitious £100 million target and top MPs and industry chiefs begin to champion its progress both at home and abroad.

Sparkling wine now makes up 66% of total production in England and Wales, and wine is now being exported to more than 13 countries.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has been holding up the success of the English wine industry as a beacon across the farming sector.

"This industry is fizzing. It shows our long-term economic plan is helping our exporters thrive and generate the jobs we need to secure the recovery," Truss said.

"There has never been a more exciting time for the English and Welsh sparkling wine industry and I look forward to seeing go from strength to strength, taking its rightful place alongside the likes of champagne, Prosecco and cava."

Meanwhile fellow conservative MP Tracey Couch, a member of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee, called on British embassies to "showcase the best of Britain" by serving English wine instead of French.

Bolney grape harvestEnglish winemakers said 2014 was their 'best-ever' vintagePicking of Pinot Gris under way at Bolney Estate in West Sussex.

Outside of embassies, the UK's domestic sparkler is also being championed by other industries - including the film sector. Sussex's Wiston Estate has been selected by Bafta as the official sparkling wine for its star-studded tea party, which will be held in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles on January 10, 2015. This annual event brings together some of the biggest names in film and television and will throw a spotlight on English wine. Richard Goring of Wiston Estate said: "Our family have always loved film and we feel privileged to have been asked to be part of bringing an inherently British flavour to this celebration."

Planting has ramped up dramatically across England and Wales in the past 10 years, with the total are of land under vine now at 4,500 acres, up from 1,879  in 2004, with 470 vineyards now open for business.

Ridgeview Wines in Sussex saw its best year yet for exports of its sparkling wine. It now exports to 12 countries making up 15% of its sales, rising from just 2% in 2010. It aims to double the size of its production from 250,000 to 500,000 bottles in the next five years.

Mardi Roberts, sales and marketing manager of Ridgeview, said: "We're seeing exports go from strength to strength and it is our ambition to grow this to 30% over the next five years as we double our current productions."

Julia Trustram Eve, marketing director of English Wine Producers, said: "It is very exciting times for English sparkling wine, with more producers coming on to the market, more wine available to buy, year on year competition success and moving in to new export markets. We've every reason to raise a glass or two in celebration." 

In July 2014 Trustram Eve told that it would take five years to hit £100 million in sales, adding that £60-70 million was more likely.