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UK government launches £1.5m scheme to boost winemaker training

The UK government has launched a new £1.5m scheme to help develop skills and job opportunities in the domestic wine sector, it announced at WineGB’s annual conference at Plumpton College. 

The new Future Winemakers’ Scheme (FWS), announced by environment secretary Steve Barclay yesterday, will see targeted funding for education, training and upskilling the workforce, as businesses estimate thousands of new vineyard jobs will be created over the coming years.

It will got towards delivering new courses at Plumpton College  that will develop skills and knowledge, scaling up Plumpton’s training capacity.

Barclay said that the UK has a “long tradition” of producing and trading wine, and that the sector has “significant scope” to expand. He noted that currently around 2,300 people work in the British wine industry with a further 8,300 people employed part-time, with numbers expected to grow by 50% next year.


“We are proud of what British winemakers have achieved over recent years, and we continue to work hard in partnership with the wine sector to simplify the rules and bring in new financial support,” he said.

Nicola Bates, CEO of Wines of Great Britain (Wine GB), called the launch of this important educational fund “hugely significant” as it will ensure that  more British winemakers and viticulturists can be trained to staff the growing industry.

“We are pleased that the Secretary of State has listened to our members to better understand the ways that the Government can support our sector at this pivotal point in our history,” she said. “We are the fastest growing agricultural industry with 4,200 hectares under vine, which is forecast to rise by 85% by 2032. After a bumper harvest of almost 22 million bottles last year, we need greater backing to ensure sustainable and transformative growth.”

2023 was the UK’s largest-ever grape harvest, producing yields more than 50% bigger than 2018, the previous record year.

Sam Linter, director of wine at Plumpton College  and Wine GB  chairman, said that it was not “just an investment in individuals, but a strategic move towards driving innovation and sustainable growth within the sector” and that the commitment to education and skill-building was “fundamental in ensuring the continued success and resilience of our industry”.

“By prioritising training and development initiatives, we are nurturing a talent pipeline that will shape the landscape of winemaking and vine growing, elevate quality standards, and reinforce the UK’s position to becoming a key player in the global wine market,” she said.

The government is also consultating on a number of issues to boost the UK wine industry. It is looking at the possibility of introducing new rules to make it possible for no and low alcohol wine to be produced and marketed as wine, which is says is in response to “fast-growing consumer demand for drinks with lower or no alcohol content”. Other measures under consultation include allowing the transformation of imported wine in the UK, for example carbonating or sweetening wine here, as well as introducing greater transparency in wine labelling rules that would help consumers understand exactly what they are purchasing – for example by requiring the term ‘British wine’ to only be used for wine products that are made here with British-grown grapes, it said.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA welcomed the consultation on further reforms, saying there was an opportunity to introduce greater flexibility for wine producers and importers, “which could allow businesses to innovate and so help to boost the UK’s status as a global hub for wine”.

The consultation will run until 10 May 2024.

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