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English wines look to a sparkling future

English wine producers are looking forward to a sustained period of growth over the coming years as word spreads about the quality of the products.

Last week’s English Wine Producers Trade & Press Tasting was abuzz with optimistic assessments of the potential of English wines, not only in the UK but in Europe and other major wine markets.

Official wine production figures released last week by the Wine Standards Branch of the Food Standards Agency confirmed earlier predictions that 2009 production was over three million bottles.

The hectarage in production is showing a 20% increase on the previous year alone whilst there is a further 25% planted but still to come on stream. New plantings continue, with more anticipated this year.
Much of the recent plantings and a growing percentage of production are for sparkling wine. The line up of wines in this year’s tasting was indicative of this growing trend, with 30 of the 69 wines on the EWP central tasting table line up being sparkling, and increasingly using the classic varieties.  
This year’s tasting also introduced and some new names in English wine, alongside latest releases of firm favourites.

Established UK producers such as Denbies Wine Estate and Nyetimber were joined by a number of smaller wineries including Stanlake Park and Three Choirs Vineyards at the tasting at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea FC in west London.

“The past couple of years have been some of the most successful we have experienced,” said Elfrida Spooner, wines sales manager at Denbies. “I think that wine has been subject to the same emphasis on provenance that produce has seen over the last few years and consumers are more willing, and sometimes even keen, to drink locally-produced wines.”

Tim Chance, proprietor of the Strawberry Hill Vineyard, added: “We’ve seen a real explosion in interest in wine tourism, in particular, and the south of England offers some of the best countryside in the world so people are very happy to come and stay with us and relax, while learning more about the quality of England’s wines.”

There was a general feeling that the recent recession might have actually played into the hands of English wine producers, despite previous comments that English wines are expensive compared to otehr countries.

Cheryl Huntingford, sales and events manager at Stanlake Park Wine Estate, said: “We have had a lot more visitors coming our way over the past year, and it probably has a lot to do with the fact people are holidaying in the UK a lot more than they did before the recession came along.

“Our huge country estate is proving to be very popular with people who want beauty and entertainment on their trips away.”

Alan Lodge, 28.04.2010

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