Cool 2016 sees English wine production dip 20%

Volumes of English wine dipped nearly 20% below the average production in 2016, due to a combination of cool conditions during the summer and a lack of moisture in the later part of the growing season.

The overall volume recorded for 2016 was 31,116 hectolitres (equivalent to around 4.15m bottles), which was nearly 18% below last year’s average production of around 5 million bottles. However marketing body English Wine Producers insisted it was a “high quality vintage”.

The figure was release today ahead of the annual English Wine Producers trade tasting.

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2016 got off to a slow start, and the cool and wet weather during flowering in June with the conditions continuing throughout July and August, which English Wine Producers said had had an impact on fruit development, bunch growth and véraison. However good weather from mid-August and across the autumn helped boost ripening, producing high quality fruit.  Harvest was a few weeks later than usual but a lack of moisture towards the end of the growing season meant there was generally low bunch weights and smaller berries, affecting overall volumes.

Last year saw an average harvest of around 5.06m bottles (37,977 hectolitres), although this was more than a 1 million bottles fewer than the record-breaking vintage of 2014. That year saw volumes of 6.3 million bottles, an increase of 42% on the 2013 harvest.

However EWP said that the recent run of good, fruit-bearing vintage years meant stock levels of English wine are good. “Established producers are well prepared to cope with the increasing demand for English wine at home and abroad. With grapes from many young vineyards yet to come on stream, volumes will rise in the future,” it said.

Frost damage

The 2017 harvest is widely anticipated to be more challenging, after vines were hit by late frosts in many areas. Although the impact is still being assessed, it is thought that this may be particularly damaging after vines had got off to a good start due to the unseasonably mild winter and early spring, making them more susceptible to damage.

“Frost damage has been on the new growth from the primary buds. Vines carry secondary buds, which can develop to produce some fruit, albeit less in quantity.  It is far too soon to assess the effect that this frost will have had until much further in to the growing season, after flowering,” EWP said.

Simon Robinson, Chairman of English Wine Producers and owner of Hattingley Valley Wines in Hampshire said this had been “very disappointing” given the good start to this year’s growing season, but said that it was inevitable that there would be a mixtures of more and less productive years. “Our producers are accustomed to levels of variation and continue to set their sights on the future – challenging conditions such as these do not invalidate the basic business model either here or anywhere else in Europe.”

Acreage under vine in the UK has more than doubled in the last decade, and nearly tripled since 2000, with the latest hectarage officially for 2016 now standing at 2,077ha. This is set to rise to 2,330 ha by 2017, after around 1 million vines are planted.

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