When you think of England and alcohol, wine doesn’t necessarily come to mind. Beer? Of course. It’s tough to beat an English ESB. Gin? Certainly. There aren’t many labels more iconic than the Beefeater yeoman warder stationed on their London dry gin. But English wine, and specifically, English sparkling wine? No, that doesn’t bubble to the forefront of the mind. But be warned: that may soon change.
New Found Acclaim
Sparkling wine production in England has steadily grown for the past decade, averaging 11% growth during that span. 2015 marks a particularly celebratory year for the category. So much so, you could consider it to be a coming out party for English producers, with wines scoring gold medals in a host of international wine competitions.
These award winning producers are an ambitious lot, too, with some gleefully challenging Champagne’s dominance of the premium sparkling category. And that challenge may not be as much of a stretch as it looks at first glance. At least, not in terms of quality. This past week, Hambledon Classic Cuvee (Hampshire) and Nyetember Classic Cuvee 2010 (Sussex) took home top honors in a blind taste test put on by London-based food and wine magazine, Noble Rot. The two cuvees beat out Champagne classics like Veuve Clicquot and Pol Roger.
Kind Climate and Continued Growth
Warmer weather in England has helped boost harvest sizes and increased the volume of production from wineries. Unusually sunny skies carried increased temperatures that resulted in a 2015 harvest to match the high yielding years of 2010 and 2013. The large harvest comes at a crucial time for English winemakers, as prestige, production, and popularity begin to rise.
The rising popularity of British wine has been met with a number of new wineries. According to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs department, the number of new wineries opened in the past year in the UK has jumped up 41%. As English wines gain both awards and notoriety, demand is expected to grow. Eager producers looking to carve space in the growing industry hope to meet that demand with new wines. Consumers can only hope the quality matches the quantity.
English Wine outside of England
The next step for English producers is to tap into markets outside of the UK. Sparkling wine has seen tremendous growth amongst wine drinkers in the UK and the US. This is a great time for English wine to gain prominence, as the market is primed for sparkling consumption.
The importance of exports is not lost on English producers, and there is a push to increase the amount of English wine exported for foreign consumption.
Sam Linter, chief winemaker at Bolney Wine Estate in Sussex (the largest production area for English wine) recently told Drinks Business, “Our year-on-year target for exports is 15% this year and we’re not far off that which is pretty good as it was only 5% last year,” she said. “We have our customer base and marketing strategy very firmly in place.”
With exports on the rise, you should look for English wines coming to your market.