It’s been a record breaking year for UK wine

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Soaring: English sparkling wine accounts for 66% of all English and Welsh wine produced
Soaring: English sparkling wine accounts for 66% of all English and Welsh wine produced
A record number of bottles of English and Welsh wine were released on to the market last year, according to new data from HMRC.

The latest figures show that that 3.86m bottles of sparkling and still wine made in UK vineyards were released for sale in 2017, a 64% increase on the number of releases in 2016.

This is the latest in a long line of increases since the year 2000, when just 1.34m bottles were released from bond.

Experts say the English wine industry is now reaping the benefits from a huge investment in the sector, leading to an increase in vines planted over the past 10 years.

Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) chief executive Miles Beale said: “English wine releases reached a record high in 2017 with more varietals and vintages available, giving consumers a greater choice than ever before.

“This is great news for English winemakers who have been gaining international recognition over the past few years, leading to an impressively stocked trophy cabinet. With the high quality of English now so widely recognised, the wine industry’s newest challenge is meeting growing demand.

“The English wine industry is a true British success story and has ambitious plans to increase exports. We hope to see production continue to grow and forge ahead with new export opportunities.”

English sparkling renaissance 

English sparkling wine is made in the same traditional method as Champagne, meaning it is left to age in the bottle, usually for about three years. It accounts for 66% of all English and Welsh wine produced and has gained global recognition for its quality.

The growth in output from the English wine sector is also set for a further boost this year, when the UK’s largest single estate vineyard releases its first sparkling wine.

Next month, Rathfinny Wine Estate in Sussex will launch its sparkling, Blanc de Blancs, after bottling its first wine in May 2015. The family-run wine estate will increase the English wine portfolio and aims to eventually reach production of over 80,000 cases by 2025.

So far, the estate has planted 250,000 vines on a former arable farm in the South Downs and intends to plant a further 250,000 vines over the next five years.

Rathfinny Wine Estate co-founder Mark Driver said: “We’re very excited to be releasing our first Sussex sparkling wines this year. There seems to be a lot excitement about the launch and the wines are being well received.

“It was always our belief that if we could make a sparkling wine that could match, or even better, some of the best sparkling wines in the world then there would be a ready market for our wines in the UK and overseas."

Conviviality woes 

Driver continued: “English sparkling wines are winning awards in international competitions and the talk of the town in New York and Hong Kong. We expect to export up to 50% of our wines over the next few years.”  

“The success of English sparkling wines has led Champagne houses to invest in vineyards in the south of England as the chalky soils and climate are very similar to those found in the Champagne region.” 

Earlier this month, Vranken-Pommery became the first of the big Champagne houses to release an English sparkling wine. The fizz is made in partnership with Hampshire’s Hattingley Valley and sold under the Louis Pommery England label.

Meanwhile, troubled wine supplier to the pub trade Conviviality has filed notice​ of its intention to appoint administrators as its financial woes remain unsolved.

Conviviality, which recently warned of going bust if £125m in financial backing could not be found,​ failed to secure the funds needed to pay off its £30m tax bill and £30m debt to creditors.

As a result, the employer of 2,500 people is looking at other options, including the sale of parts of its business.

The beleaguered distributor owns five brands, including Bibendum and Bargain Booze.

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