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Direct to consumer sales of English wine more than double in two years

Year-on-year sales of English wine grew by a third in 2021, according to WineGB’s latest figures, stimulated by an unprecedented rise in direct to consumer and cellar door sales, which have more than doubled since 2019.

At a Trade and Press Tasting on Tuesday, Simon Thorpe MW, CEO of WineGB, presented new figures which demonstrate the growth in the UK’s wine sector and the increased importance of cellar door sales.

Year-on-year sales rose by a third (31%) in 2021 — following the upward trend in sales figures for English wine, which have exhibited an overall rise of 69% from 2019 to 2021.

Direct to consumer sales have shown the most growth by far, with an impressive increase of 265% over the last two years. The channel therefore now represents 57% of all sales in 2021, up from 36% in 2019.

Thorpe described the journey of English wine as “one of change but one of growth”.

According to Thorpe, sales figures in 2021 exceeded production numbers. Just under 9 million bottles of English wine were produced last year, compared to the 9.3 million bottles sold.

The Coronavirus pandemic assisted with the growth of direct to consumer sales, with wineries opening online sales to mitigate the effects of national lockdowns shutting down the on-trade and independent retailers.

To keep up with growing demand, the number of new vines planted has also rocketed. Hectarage has grown by 70% in just five years, quadrupling in size since 2000.

Direct to consumer sales of English wine more than double in two years

Growth is still “heavily predicated on Pinot and Chardonnay”, Thorpe said, with Champagne varieties accounting for most of the new plantings in the last five years.

There are now 3,758 hectares under vine in England and Wales with 879 vineyards and 197 wineries (195 in England, 2 in Wales), employing over 10,000 workers.

The increase in volume is “important” to supply new opportunities in the market, WineGB’s CEO said, with between 1.4 and 2 million new vines planted last year.

Thorpe noted that while this growth is important, more attention should be paid to PIWI varieties and experimental plantings.

“We are data poor on this sorts of new things,” he said, noting that the extensive time it takes to produce wines from newly planted vines is a key issue when it comes to new research.

English wine producers are set to kick off the 2022 harvest over the coming weeks, with a number of wineries picking early as a result of the hot, dry weather this summer. But with rain forecast over the coming days, the quality of the vintage still hangs in the balance. Read more on how producers are feeling about the upcoming vintage here.

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