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‘Miracle’ harvest in Britain yields more than 20m bottles

GB has recorded its largest ever harvest, yielding more than 20 million bottles of still and sparkling wine in 2023 – which is around double the amount that the Brits are currently drinking.

Pinot Noir at Ridgeview captured by db in October this year

In a report on this year’s vintage in England and Wales sent to the drinks business yesterday, it was revealed that the harvest is estimated to produce 20-22m bottles, which is around 50% larger than the previous record in Britain, when vintners made approximately 13m bottles.

As previously reported by db, the 2023 harvest in GB is notable for high yields and record-breaking bunch weights, with producers calling the vintage “unbelievable” in terms of the quantities produced.

Confirming our initial analysis, WineGB noted this week that “top four grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier and Bacchus “performed exceptionally well”, with the average of all vineyards almost reaching 10 tonnes per hectare.”

Calling it a “miracle” vintage, the industry body stressed that the new peak in production this year is not just due to high yields, but an increase in plantings too.

As WineGB recorded, hectarage across England and Wales has grown by nearly 75%, meaning that output today is over 1,000ha higher than in 2018, with 2023’s productive vineyard area totalling 3,230ha, compared to 2,138ha in 2018 – a growth of 151%.

In terms of the quality of the vintage, WineGB noted that while ripeness levels were lower than average, as were acids, winemakers are optimistic about the quality of the fruit and resulting wine.

UK viticulture consultant Stephen Skelton MW – who penned the report on this year’s harvest – described 2023 as “a vintage to remember”.

He said, “The excellent yields are attributed to not only the near perfect weather for grapes at key times of the growing season, but also comes on the back of more hectares than ever before coming into production, having seen nearly 75% growth in plantings in the last five years alone.”

While the English wine industry has recently been in a position of undersupply, with the present demand for bottles in the UK at around 10m bottles – of which 8m are fizz ­– it should be pointed out that this year’s output is more than double what is currently being consumed.

With around three quarters of English vintners’ output being put towards making sparkling wine, that would see the quantity of fizz going into cellars from this year’s harvest amounting to around 16.5m bottles.

Although that is a small proportion of the approximate 100m bottles of Prosecco the Brits consume annually, English sparkling wine production from this vintage represents almost 60% the sales of Champagne in the UK, which amounted to 28m bottles in 2022.

While Champagne is generally pricier than English sparkling wine, it should be noted that GB’s produce tends to be more expensive than Cava, which sees around 20m bottles sold in the UK, where it is undergoing a resurgence.

In other words, English sparkling wine producers will need to find consumers for more than double the current level of demand (8m to 16.5m bottles of fizz) in a competitive domestic market, which is also seeing an overall stagnation in sales.

Either that, or vintners in GB will have to develop export markets to absorb the extra supply.

Read more

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