Sparkling wine from Great Britain is fast becoming a leader on the global stage – not just for its exceptional quality and dedicated producers, but also with the industry’s thirst to drive innovation.
Backed by £6m of government investment, the industry is embracing innovative developments that combine methods cultivated since the earliest days of viticulture in the UK with the latest technology to protect the countryside and land.
Through Innovate UK, Government funding has been provided for projects that continue to create forward-looking industry solutions such as the creation of digital weather stations and systems to recognise and remove potentially harmful debris and micro-organisms from grapes, extending shelf life, reducing waste and lowering CO2 emissions.
Additional investment has supported research projects into weather forecasting for vineyards, the expansion of wineries, equipment and tourist facilities, further creating jobs and increasing productivity, as well as online retail platforms for online sales.
Some traditional methods are still employed in vineyards to maintain a healthy growth cycle, however. This includes use of sheep in vineyards when the vines are dormant, a practice adopted by a number of producers. The keen four-legged helpers maintain grass on the estate, managing weeds, enriching the soil by supporting the natural and diverse nutrient cycle.
Food Minister Victoria Prentis said: “It’s fantastic that English sparkling wine is being increasingly recognised as the premium drink of choice to celebrate Christmas here in the UK.
“Growers and producers in England set a high bar internationally, thanks to their thirst for innovation and due to unique methods of managing their estates. It is truly inspiring to see ecologically-friendly and surprising ways to make sure the vineyards are well-maintained and that the soil is as nutrient-rich as possible.”
Today, sparkling wine makes up to 72% of all wine produced in the UK and is served regularly at high-profile occasions, such as Royal state dinners and the Prime Minister’s official receptions. In 2018 and in early 2019, England became one of the fastest expanding wine regions in the world.
As the UK leaves the Common Agricultural Policy behind and moves towards a new system, we will continue to build on these initiatives, for example through a new Research & Development package for England, to unlock innovation and to encourage agri-food businesses to become more involved in innovative solutions.
The government will also continue to support our wine industry in taking further steps forward, such as helping them with cross-industry collaboration to encourage events and tourism. The wine sector will also be eligible to apply for grants through the Farming Investment Fund.
English sparkling wine is globally acclaimed, winning top awards in numerous competitions. The Government-funded Food is GREAT campaign also promotes the unique qualities of English sparkling wine to international audiences – from the US to Japan – through consumer experiences, trade shows and Embassy and Consulate receptions.
Simon Robinson, Chairman, Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) said: “Our fast growing industry is poised at a truly exciting stage of its development. There are now more than 700 vineyards across England and Wales, more than 200 of which will be open to welcome visitors when Covid restrictions are lifted.
“Our highest tier of sparkling wines continue to gain international acclaim for their quality and are competing toe to toe with Champagnes on a world stage. This year we focussed on increasing awareness in this hero style, now referred to as our Classic Method sparkling wines. We can also boast a widely acclaimed industry sustainability scheme adopted by an ever-increasing number of vineyards and wineries.
“With support from government and inward investment from individuals and even Champagne houses, we are growing our reputation as one of the world’s most exciting emergent wine regions. There has never been a better time to celebrate Christmas with a bottle of English or Welsh sparkling wine.”