Up a considerable 6% on 2017, homegrown fizz has become more popular than sparkling wines from Australia, the US and Germany combined.
Latest figures from the Wine & Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) revealed that, while a demand for sparkling wine is still growing in the UK, it is being driven primarily by cheaper fizz – notably Italian Prosecco, which remains the best-selling bubbly.
WSTA chief executive Miles Beale added that British shoppers bought 117m bottles of English and Welsh wines in 2018, while fewer than 24m bottles of Champagne was purchased.
“Everyone should take the opportunity to toast our talented English winemakers with a glass of homegrown fizz on St George’s Day,” exclaimed Beale.
“UK wine trade has come out fighting and proved it can compete with the best of the best at a global level.”
Wine importers, bottling plants, distributors, retailers and logistics companies across the UK employ about 170,000 people, according to WSTA, and in 2017 paid almost £4.7bn in duty to the Treasury, more than is paid for any other alcoholic drink.
“The Government needs to do more to support this emerging British success story,” concluded Beale.
He urged the chancellor Philip Hammond to start bringing down his “excessively high duty rates” after he unfairly singled out wine for a duty rise in his most recent budget.
Despite the WSTA’s complaints about the duty burden, the English wine industry has enjoyed enormous growth in recent years, with 3.86m bottles released on to the market in 2017, up 64% on previous year and nearly three times the 1.34m recorded in 2000.
English winemakers were now looking forward to even bigger sales in the next couple of years, the WSTA said, when wine made from grapes grown in the sweltering summer heatwave of 2018 will arrive on supermarket shelves.
The fall in sterling has also handed a Brexit bonus to English sparkling wines, with many considered to match premium French Champagnes in quality but now priced the same or less.
In a major boost for producers, the Ridgeview estate in Sussex was, last November, named the world’s best winemaker in the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2018.
This was the first time in the competition’s 49-year history that the award has been presented to an English producer.