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The number of UK wineries opening every year has reached record highs

English vineyards are now a “fashionable” investment for financiers in the City of London, as the number of wineries launching in the UK reaches record highs.

Jacob Leadley, founder of UK sparkling wine label Black Chalk, swapped a career in financial services for life in the vineyard (Photo: Black Chalk).

Some 80 wineries launched in the UK last year, up from 64 in 2016, and more than double the 36 that opened five years ago, according to accountancy UHY Hacker Young.

Vineyards within the UK have become “increasingly fashionable among City workers looking to invest their bonuses”, the financial firm said, as British vineyards are far less expensive compared with established wine-growing in Europe and the New World.

James Simmonds, partner at UHY Hacker Young said that English and Welsh wines are “now not only being recognised by domestic consumers, but also starting to win acclaim on an international level.

“Whilst City workers may have previously invested in the traditional wine regions of Bordeaux or Chianti, they now have the option of being part of the UK wine scene.”

“As English wine continues to thrive more producers and enthusiasts will likely seek to capitalise on its success this will help to drive further investment so that the present growth trend is further enforced.”

The wine industry is now one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors; the area under vine has increased 135% in the last decade (tripling since 2000) and 2017 will mark the largest planting programme yet seen.

In particular, producers of English sparkling wines, which account for two thirds of the UK’s production, have ramped up their production and received national acclaim.

Cornwall’s Camel Valley became the first UK winery to be issued with a Royal Warrant in April, joining the ranks of several famous brands whose bottles bear the Royal coat of arms such as Martini Vermouth, Champagne Bollinger, Pol Roger, Pimm’s and Hine Cognac.

Meanwhile Rathfinny, England’s newest estate in Sussex, recently disgorged its first sparkling wines ahead of a planned release in June, after eight years of preparation.

The winery also plans to sell 800 bottles of its Blanc de Noirs 2015 in pint-sized bottles next year, a nod to Britain’s planned departure from the European Union.

Some City workers even see winemaking as a way to escape corporate life. Jacob Leadley spent more than seven years working as an analyst for firms including Bank of America and Morgan Stanley before turning to the drinks trade. In April this year he launched Black Chalk, one of the newest sparkling wines to enter the UK market.

After completing a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton College, followed by stints in Central Otago and Champagne, he decided to embark on his own venture in 2015.

“Black Chalk has been nine years in the making,” he said at the time. “The journey has taken me and my family across the globe but has always been focused on England.”

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