English Wine: 2016 pipped as strongest year ever

17 August, 2016

English winemakers look set to earmark 2016 as their strongest year to date as sales and award wins continue to soar.

The continued interest in sparkling wines is contributing to growth for English wines in the UK, while award wins are also helping to boost awareness. Meanwhile there has also been an increasing number of English wine producers coming to the market with 37 new wine producers and vineyards opening in England in 2015.   

Waitrose said English sparkling wine was its fastest growing sparkling wine category last year. Becky Hull, English & Welsh wine buyer for Waitrose said sales of English sparkling wines increased by 49% while still wines are up by 7.5% compared to last year (volume sales to July 2016). Its range now includes 107 English and Welsh wines.

Marks & Spencer also reports of strong sales. Elizabeth Kelly, M&S’s wine buyer, said sales of its English wines rose by 74% in the second quarter of this year. The retailer has increased its range to 37 English and Welsh wines.

Lidl and Booths also added English wines this year; Lidl added three wines as part of its Wine Cellar range, while Booths added four sparkling wines (from Camel Valley, Lyme Bay, Ridgeview and Wiston Estate) to its English wine line up.

Booths wine buyer, Victoria Di Muccio, said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for English wine and I have been struck by the vast improvement in quality over recent years. There has been a real increase in appetite for English wine among our customers and we now offer a fantastic selection to explore.”

The positive reports follow the recent news from Sussex-based Ridgeview Wine Estate, which announced earlier this month that it was moving its distribution over to Bibendum. As a result its English wines will soon be available to independent retailers through Bibendum’s Walker & Wodehouse arm, while branded products will be distributed to multiple retailers via PLB and to the on-trade via Bibendum. Ridgeview is one of the first big names to switch to the newly-formed company, following the acquisition of Bibendum by Conviviality earlier this year.

Ridgeview is also expanding its production capabilities in order to fulfil demand; the company will see production rise to 400,000 by 2020.

And English sparkling wine producer Gusborne has raised a bond issue this year to raise £10m for an investment in its two vineyards in West Sussex and Kent.

Meanwhile, independent wine retailers also report of success from their English wine offerings.

Julia Trustram Eve, marketing director for English Wine Producers, said: “The ever-growing ready availability of English wines, coupled with consistently fantastic results in competitions is encouraging wine consumers to turn to English wines.

“By the same token, those consumers are motivating the demand for more English wines to which retailers and restaurants are responding. English wines are now recognised for the great wines that they are.”

She noted that English producers have also seen their best year ever for competition triumphs.

Wine experts have also noted there is uncertainty over what will happen to UK imports of Prosecco and Champagne after Brexit, but English sparkling wine could benefit further as a result of any import challenges.  

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