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WineGB celebrates ‘turning point’ on back of record 2018 vintage

Published:  01 February, 2019

The gathering momentum of the English and Welsh wine industry was much in evidence on Thursday night at a packed gala dinner at London’s Vintners’ Hall.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall graced the Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) event, which crowned the record 2018 harvest, when UK wine production hit a record 15.6 million bottles.

The Duchess, who’s father, Major Bruce Shand, was a wine merchant, said that “a love of wine runs in the veins of my family”, adding, “since becoming president of WineGB in 2012 I’ve witnessed our wines going from strength to strength in quantity, and, even more importantly, in quality”.

Having alluded to much uncertainty in the world, The Duchess concluded on a humorous note: “If I may quote the Vintners’ Company motto, ‘wine cheers the spirit’ [vinum exhilarat animum], and… we all need our spirits cheered!”.

WineGB’s chairman, Simon Robinson of Hattingley Valley Wines, then outlined an optimistic vision for the future of English and Welsh wines, saying, “our industry is going through seismic change”, suggesting that when we look back, the record 2018 vintage will very likely be seen as the "turning point” for the industry.

Expansion of vineyards across the country would ensure that volumes will continue to grow, he said, with acreage planted up 160% in the past 10 years, with 1.6 million vines going into the ground in 2018 alone.

Vines planted are expected to exceed the 2 million mark in 2019, with current trends suggesting that production will increase to 40 million bottles per annum by 2040.

“Exports will be especially valuable in the future,” said Robinson, adding that exports had doubled in the last 12 months, with global distribution since 2017 expanding from 27 countries to 40 markets around the world by 2019, with Scandinavia and the US leading the way.

“Within the next 20 to 30 years WineGB expects that exports may account for 30% to 40% of the total wine produced in Great Britain, yielding a potential value of some £350 million per annum,” said Robinson.

Touching on the financial benefits to local economies of “a boom” in wine-related tourism and the increase of and increasing sophistication of cellar door facilities, WineGB’s chairman also highlighted the entrance of Champagne houses Taittinger and Pommery into the UK sparkling wine scene, describing their investments as “a firm endorsement for the future of the industry”.

“I do not think it would be unreasonable to say that 2018 will probably go down as the year when the industry came of age for our colleagues in the wine trade both here in the UK and overseas,” said Robinson.