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I’ve always been surprised by how little availability there has been for the English grape. When you walk into your local wine store or supermarket, there has never been a huge selection on show. We consume a vast amount of wine in the UK, all continental and New World, but very little of our own.
As a country I know we fall just outside of the ideal growing zone for top quality wines but, nevertheless, in the south of the UK we have the climate and same soil base that produces the top quality wines of Champagne and Chablis. There has also been a notable change in the climatic conditions in this part of the UK too.
No wonder then that some of France’s leading Champagne and still wine producers have been sniffing around the English countryside for land to buy up and, hopefully, start producing wines that would match the depth of quality that the rest of Europe can.
Our deep history as a nation is one with agriculture. Like most of Europe there was a time when England was amass with vineyards. Granted it was never meant for commercial use. The churches and monasteries were the main producers. The wines were created to be used for religious purposes, whilst the towns and villages swallowed up the local brew.
The main problem for me with English wines isn’t necessarily the quality, even though the still wine market does need some improvement and we’ve already proved how well we can make sparkling wines, it’s the price. It’s all a bit expensive. Which is understandable. We don’t have enough vines planted to make our home produced wines affordable. With low yields, vineyard, labour, bottling costs etc, by the time the wine hits our shelves an enormous amount of money has been spent just to get the wine this far. Add on the winery or retailers mark up and you get an expensive product.
Taken from figures in 2009, the UK produced 1450 tonnes of grapes compared to France’s 6.5 million tonnes. That’s only 0.02%. The consumer spent around £20 million on UK wines compared to £5 billion on the rest.*
With hope the potential investment from abroad, on top of the land being put under vine in Windsor, will start to filter its way through the rest of the UK wine market. Now I know we won’t be seeing the results of this for another 3-5 years but it’s all very positive.
I’m looking forward to it.
For more stats and information on English Wines, click on the link below. It’s very interesting.
* Figures taken from BBC news and the Nielsen report 2009.