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UK wine export set to soar

Published:  09 May, 2018

WineGB has set the bar high, predicting the value of UK wine exports could reach up to £350 million by 2040. That’s no mean feat with export accounting for just 5% of production in 2017 – a figure that is expected to rise to 25% by 2025.

But with the amount of planted hectares of vines in the UK having doubled in the past eight years to around 2,500ha, and with expectations that this could increase to 3,000ha by 2020, this could be achievable in terms of production.

And, with many of the current 20-odd English producers exporting their wares having revealed ambitious export targets for the next few years, and many others keen to push their homegrown tipples abroad, UK wine is no doubt gaining traction overseas. This is not just in the key US market, but also in other countries worldwide, including Scandinavia, Japan, Australia, Netherlands, Hong Kong and in Ireland.

“There has been a natural progression into exporting from UK producers driven by a thirst for high-quality wines in other markets,” said Julia Trustram Eve, WineGB marketing director.

The reputation of British goods generally has opened up opportunities, with the food and drink sector continuing to successfully promote its products across the globe, she added.

Indeed, if the UK wine industry is to reach the 2040 export prediction, which is based on how Oregon has grown, it is imperative it continues to focus on this quality reputation – the driving force for the future of English and Welsh wine, said Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

This is echoed by Digby Fine English, which has had its eye on export from day one. “Sheer quality that knocks the socks off even the most experienced buyers abroad is making English sparkling so popular, together with continuing coverage from respected wine critics and publications, said co-founder and CEO Trevor Clough. Britishness in all its “wonderful, serious, quirky, humorous, luxurious facets” is also playing in favour of the industry, he added.

He warned, however, that UK producers taking the export route must have a bedrock long-term strategy for what they are trying to achieve abroad as it takes “huge investment” in relationships to make export a long-term success, with securing an importer only the beginning.

Beale, meanwhile, points to the importance of actual investment: “The expansion of the English wine industry relies on huge investment, as we are years behind the established growers, for example in France, Italy and the US. The English and Welsh producers are keen to export, and some are already going great guns, but they need more wine to share with the rest of the world. This can only happen if the UK government lends its support to a growing and ambitious British success story,” he said.

In light of the referendum, the WSTA has been exploring any new opportunities presented by Brexit, with increasing exports to non-EU countries, particularly the US and east and south east Asia, identified as a priority for English wine producers, said Beale.

“We are working hard to help English and Welsh wine producers fulfil their export goals and not just through export promotion missions. We are also looking at other means to facilitate trade, such as the UK joining the World Wine Trade Group,” he said.

WineGB, which is currently working on an export development programme to support producers, said there were many opportunities to further highlight the sector, pointing to increased promotional opportunities at key events and exhibitions around the world, in addition to ensuring that embassies and high commissions serve English wine.

It’s fair to say the UK wine industry has been on a steep learning curve during the past 15 years, and having now cracked the code when it comes to growing grapes best suited to the soil and climate, the biggest hurdle lying ahead is to meet demand for the international audience, said Beale.