Rising Stars: The Ascension of English Wine in the Global Arena

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Rising Stars: The Ascension of English Wine in the Global Arena

#EnglishWineWeek feature article. Written by Nick Gay, Wine Enthusiast and National Client Manager at Capcon

English wine has rapidly transformed from a speciality market into a formidable competitor on the international stage, particularly our sparkling wines. This transformative journey is driven by significant investment, state-of-the-art technology, and a changing climate that favours viticulture in regions like Sussex and Hampshire. As a qualified sommelier and a manager at Capcon, a company which supports the growth and efficiency of vineyards through innovative stock control and auditing solutions, I’ve witnessed first-hand the maturation of the English wine industry.

Over the past decade, production in the UK has soared. 2023 was, according to Wine GB’s 2023 Harvest Report*, a ‘Near Perfect Year’ for wine and the nation’s ‘largest ever’ harvest to date, with production expected to surpass previous records by over 50%, potentially reaching 20-22 million bottles.

Dubbed the ‘miracle harvest,’ the 2023 season was exceptional despite the summer’s subdued temperatures. An unexpected warm spell in September and earlier favourable conditions significantly boosted grape productivity. A total of 30,000 tonnes of grapes were harvested across vineyards in England and Wales, with vineyard hectarage in full production escalating to approximately 3,230 hectares – an increase of 151% from 2018.

Varieties like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Bacchus performed particularly well, yielding an average of 10 tonnes per hectare across all vineyards, with top vineyards reaching 15.9 tonnes per hectare.

This growth isn’t, however, just about quantity; the quality of English sparkling wines now sees them contending with the best from regions like Champagne. Factors such as enhanced viticultural practices and the extended experience of vineyard managers who are adept at adapting to the nuances of the English climate and soil, have significantly contributed to the rise in quality, which has seen English wine now recognised both domestically and on international platforms. This recognition is shifting perceptions, positioning English wines alongside prestigious names on Michelin-starred wine lists – a testament to their refined quality and the industry’s growth.

It’s important to note though that this growth isn’t without challenges. The English wine industry continues to face hurdles such as the need for more significant investment and the impacts of climate change, which, while beneficial in some aspects, also brings new challenges like extreme weather conditions that can affect crop yields.

Despite these challenges, the future looks promising. The industry’s response has been robust, with a focus on sustainable practices and a move towards wines that showcase the unique characteristics of English terroirs – similar to how other famous wine regions have built their reputations.

At Capcon, we are well embedded within the industry, offering tailored solutions that help vineyards optimise their operations and ensure the highest standards of product quality and inventory management. This support not only aids in maintaining the excellence of English wines but also ensures that they remain competitive both at home and abroad.

As we look forward, it’s clear that English wine is not just a fleeting trend but a growing category poised to establish itself firmly on the global wine map. The next decade will likely see English wine solidify its identity, with a focus on distinctive regional characteristics that appeal to a broad audience. This evolution will continue to drive the industry forward, making English wine a staple in the global wine community.

To all those involved in bringing these exceptional wines to our tables – from vineyard workers to winemakers and distributors – I extend my heartfelt congratulations and look forward to continuing our journey together, supporting and celebrating the remarkable achievements of the English wine industry.

* Wine GB’s 2023 Harvest Report

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