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Government launches £1.5m Future Winemakers’ Scheme to boost UK wine industry

Published:  19 April, 2024

The British government has unveiled a new initiative, the Future Winemakers’ Scheme, aimed at bolstering training opportunities within the domestic wine industry. The scheme is designed to ensure the availability of a skilled workforce to support the burgeoning British wine sector.

Announced by environment secretary Steve Barclay at the WineGB Conference for Growth at Plumpton College, the scheme is set to receive £1.5m in funding. The primary focus of the funding is said to be on education and training programmes tailored to support the next generation of winemakers and industry professionals. A significant portion of the funding will be allocated to developing new courses at Plumpton College, the UK’s leading institution in wine education.

“The UK has a long tradition of producing and trading wine, and the sector has significant scope to expand,” Barclay said.

He also highlighted the current employment figures, noting that approximately 2,300 people work in the British wine industry, with a further 8,300 employed part-time. These numbers are expected to grow by 50% next year.

Nicola Bates, CEO of WineGB, said: “The launch of this important educational fund is hugely significant and will ensure that we can train more British winemakers and viticulturists to staff our growing industry.  

“We are pleased that the secretary of state has listened to our members to better understand the ways that the government can support our sector at this pivotal point in our history.” 

The UK’s wine industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, with 2023 marking the largest-ever grape harvest, expected to yield 20-22m bottles. According to WineGB, there are 4,200ha under vine which is forecast to rise by 85% by 2032, marking viticulture as the fastest-growing agricultural industry in the UK.

Sam Linter, director of Wine at Plumpton College and WineGB chairman, added: “As we look towards the future of the UK wine industry, empowering the next generation of people working in the industry at all levels, this is not just an investment in individuals, but a strategic move towards driving innovation and sustainable growth within the sector.  

“By prioritising training and development initiatives, we are nurturing a talent pipeline that will shape the landscape of winemaking and vine growing, elevate quality standards, and reinforce the UK’s position to becoming a key player in the global wine market.  

“This commitment to education and skill-building is fundamental in ensuring the continued success and resilience of our industry, paving the way for a prosperous future filled with exceptional wines that reflect the rich heritage and promising potential of UK vineyards.”