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Record 2015 harvest set to push English wines to new heights

Published:  30 October, 2015

The English wine industry is set to break £100 million this year on the back of an excellent harvest, according to reports from the Wine & Spirits Trade Association.

The harvest months of September and October saw unseasonably sunny weather, with sun up 25% and 15% respectively against the norm.

Josh Donaghay-Spire, winemaker at the Chapel Down winery in Kent, said: "Although August was cooler than average, the unseasonably warm, dry and sunny conditions of September have resulted in low disease pressure, good ripeness levels, excellent balance of acidity and the development of intense flavours.

"The 2015 harvest is looking comparable to 2010 and 2013 in terms of style but of superior quality."

Sam Linter, managing director and winemaker at the Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex, agreed: "The late sunshine has beautifully ripened our grapes which has made up for the cool and wet August which we experienced.

"Last year Bolney produced 110 thousand bottles and this year we expect it to be in excess of 120 thousand."

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said: "We are delighted to hear from our members that late sunshine has given this year's harvest a boost.

"English winemakers across the country have increased by 50% the area under vine in the last three years.

"Based on the latest growth figures, the WSTA's projections show that English wine is set reach £100 million this year and to double in production to a staggering 12 million bottles per year by 2020 up from 6.3 million in 2014."

Recent figures released by the government have confirmed that the English wine industry is expanding rapidly.

The HMRC received 65 applications from potential new producers last year, more than double the number in 2012-13.

There are currently 470 commercial vineyards and 135 wineries operating in England and Wales.

It has been calculated that there are still a potential 75,000 acres of land suitable for viniculture in England and Wales which have yet to be cultivated.

That is an area equivalent to the entire Champagne region.

The WSTA is campaigning for further government support for the industry by way of a cut on wine and spirits tax at the next Budget.

"Currently in the UK we pay nearly £6bn in duty plus VAT on wine - two thirds of all wine duty paid in the EU," Beale said.

"We would like to see a fairer deal for English wine which at the moment has the second highest rate in the EU.

"Almost 70% of wine made in the UK is sparkling, which is hit by an even higher rate than still."

In a recent blind tasting, two English sparkling wines took the number one and two slots over a range of iconic Champagne brands.

Hambledon Classic Cuvée and Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2010 outperformed Champagnes from the likes of Pol Roger, Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger in a test organised by Noble Rot magazine.

Ian Kellett, managing director of Hambledon Vineyard said: "We are thrilled by this result for Hambledon. It's a great testament to the hard work of the whole winemaking and viticultural team.

"But it's not just an accolade for Hambledon, it's a real triumph for the English sparkling wine industry, especially as England was outnumbered 2 to 1."