English wine producer goes under2nd January, 2013 by Gabriel Stone
An English producer that saw its wines served to the Queen during last year’s Jubilee celebrations has gone into administration.
Wickham Vineyard in Hampshire, which produces about 80,000 bottles a year, ceased trading just before Christmas with the loss of around 24 jobs.
Having established its first vineyards in 1984, the estate had since expanded plantings to around 20 acres of 10 different grape varieties. Three Wickham Vineyard wines were served at a lunch in London that was attended by the Queen and Prince Philip to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
Although the UK downturn had made trading difficult over the last year, with future prospects dampened by the disastrous 2012 vintage, which saw fellow producer Nyetimber abandon its entire harvest, Wickham Vineyard’s main issue is thought to have stemmed from its high street wine retail business.
Following the demise of First Quench Retailing in 2009, Wickham Vineyards’ owner Nitin Parekh, founder of investment management firm Hume Capital, took on 14 former Threshers and Wine Rack stores to create the Wine Shak chain.
With branches in the south of England, Wine Shak aimed to sell locally made wine and beer, providing producers with an alternative to supermarket distribution. However the chain entered voluntary liquidation at the end of November 2012.
The phones at Wickham Vineyard appear to have been disconnected, but earlier a spokesperson told the Daily Echo: “The shops took the vineyard down as well.”
However, the spokesperson suggested that other factors had also contributed to Wickham Vineyard’s collapse, saying: “It’s been difficult trading for at least the past 12 months and they have been trying to secure investment which hasn’t been forthcoming.”
The future for the vineyard remains unclear, since Wickham Vineyard does not own the land and buildings. However, the company does own WineShare, a business that sells wine and rents vines, and The Vineyard Restaurant, both of which are understood to be continuing to trade.
Only last year, concerns were raised over the future commercial viability of the English wine industry, with so many medium sized producers making similar, premium-priced products in a sparkling wine market that is already crowded by popular imports such as Champagne, Prosecco and Cava.
Warning of an impending “bottleneck,” English winemaker David Cowderoy remarked: “They will find it increasingly difficult to find a point of difference.”
Similarly, consultant Stephen Skelton MW pointed to projections for English sparkling wine production to increase from 1.5 million bottles to 4-5m bottles by 2020, asking: “Where will it all sell?”