The UK wine industry is in a buoyant mood as this year’s long, hot summer weather has provided producers across the country with a dream growing season and one of the earliest harvests on record as picking started earlier this week. With predicted high yields of fruit and more acreage coming in to production, 2018 is shaping up to be a record-breaking year. The outlook remains positive as this weekend sees continued good weather.
From east to west of the country, there is a mood of optimism among producers, as growing conditions this year have prompted both early ripening and large volumes of healthy fruit, bringing harvest forward by an average of two weeks.
Simon Robinson, Chairman of WineGB and owner of Hampshire-based Hattingley Valley comments:
“The whole wine industry is excited about the potential this harvest brings which will probably lead to the highest level of production ever. Growing conditions across the country have been ideal and this shows in both excellent quality and high yield. This is very welcome as sales of wine continue to rise rapidly, both domestically and overseas. The wine industry is a bright star in the UK agricultural sector which is concerned about the post-Brexit world. The wine producers of Great Britain are looking forward to the future with increasing confidence. 2018 looks to be a very welcome harvest, although as many have commented, nobody counts on anything until the grapes are safely in tank or barrel!”
There is also a positive outlook for this year’s vintage amongst Welsh producers. Robb Merchant, owner of White Castle Vineyard and Chairman of the Welsh Vineyards Association predicts his largest harvest since his first vintage in 2011: “We’re expecting to start harvesting some of our early-ripening varieties on 9th September, two weeks earlier than last year and a month earlier than average. The grapes are looking very clean and we’re confident that the quality will be excellent. I’ve spoken to many Welsh vineyard owners over the last few days who are all reporting earlier harvest dates and large crops.”
The mood is positive across the country:
Julian Barnes, at Biddenden Vineyard in Kent, is optimistic for harvest 2018: “This will be our earliest harvest since Biddenden was established 49 years ago. We’re expecting a big crop, with plenty of ripe fruit in the vineyards and fellow Kent producers concur. However, as any good farmer will tell you, nothing is guaranteed until all the grapes are in the winery!”
In Cornwall, Bob Lindo at Camel Valley Vineyard says: “We’ve waited 30 years for this vintage which I have no doubt will be a benchmark for years to come. There is huge potential and it’s a joy to work through.”
Matt Strugnell, Vineyard Manager at Ridgeview Wine Estate in Sussex, is equally positive: “The 2018 Ridgeview harvest is shaping up to be our biggest and best vintage yet and we will be receiving fruit in the winery earlier than ever before. Canopy management has been crucial this year, keeping and maintaining what is looking like an amazing English wine harvest.”
Three Choirs Vineyards in Gloucestershire, one of England’s oldest and largest vineyards have also reported their earliest harvest on record.
The anticipated large harvest comes at a time of unprecedented growth for the wine industry of Great Britain, with the hectarage of vines planted doubling in the last ten years and tripling since 2000. In the last two years alone, over 2.5m vines have been planted in England and Wales.