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English wine continues expansion with new Kent winery

Published:  26 February, 2024

Wine firm Wildshark Vineyard has submitted plans for a new winery, visitor centre and hotel in Maidstone, Kent. 

The expansion follows a swathe of new vineyard plantings in the UK. By 2032, 7,600ha will be under vine in the UK up (from the current 4,300ha), according to WineGB.

Wine tourism is hot on the agenda too, WineGB found in a 2022 survey that vineyards had seen a 17% increase in visitors, putting numbers in the millions.

Wildshark has grown grapes for two years and seeks further expansion at its Mount Farm site in Harrietsham. The chalky, well-drained soils found in Kent and the rise in temperatures experienced in the southeast have given rise to many vineyards in the region, with the sector becoming a vital cog in the local economy.

The proposals include a new winery building to facilitate the agricultural process, a tasting room, kitchen, store and a 19-bedroom hotel to boost sales through tourism. The company predicts that wine tourism will account for 30% of all sales once developments have been realised.

According to the plans work has taken place at Wildshark to plant 25ha of vines, and by autumn 2025, 150 tonnes of grapes will be picked. The company has also acquired 60ha of additional land along the Pilgrims Way, which will allow for another 45ha to be planted with vines. 

Production-wise, WineGB projects that by 2032, the UK will be producing just under 25 million bottles a year. Last year’s bumper harvest is already yielding nearly this amount.

The trade body also estimates that direct-to-consumer sales range from 30% up to 60% of total income, with smaller producers more reliant on DTC and a physical presence for sales (cellar door, café, events).

To view Wildshark’s application click here.