9 January 2015

Kent produces excellent wines

According to a release from DEFA, the government, as part of a long term economic plan, has opened around 600 trading markets across the world since 2010 for food and drink businesses, with 199 being negotiated since the beginning of last year.

They have also helped more than 2,500 food and drink businesses sell their produce abroad – more firms than ever before – generating £300 million for the UK economy. The growing food and farming sector is now worth a record £103 billion to the UK economy and employs 1 in 8 people with overall food and drinks exports now at their highest ever.

One key area of success and growth is the wine industry with the total acres of vineyards now standing at more than 4,500, with 470 vineyards now open for business.

It was only 50 years ago that the viticulture industry of the United Kingdom was virtually non-existent; while the rest of the world continued to build up thriving export businesses, the UK only had a few hobby growers.  With the world’s most renowned wine producers on our doorstep did the UK dare to compete with French dynasty and experts built up over several centuries.

Still quite young in age, the first commercial English vineyard was set up in the 1960’s although it is this millennium that has seen an enormous surge in the success of English wine. In 2000 this country was producing a mere 250,000 bottles, compared to a projected figure of over four million bottles by the year 2015.

The amount of land under vine production has increased by 45% in the last four years, a monumental leap forward for English Wines and there is much to celebrate. In terms of production we are still some way from matching our European neighbours – just the Champagne region of France alone produces five million bottles per year.

We have over 400 thriving vineyards across England, up by 100 compared to 10 years ago. It is not just the quantity on the rise but also the quality of our wine is increasing significantly. With the south of England providing ‘near perfect’ growing conditions for the three main Champagne grapes; pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot Meunier, it is no surprise that our wines are winning gold at the prestigious International Wine Challenge and International Wine and Spirits Competition.

Kent has an established and respected wine industry with a number of key vineyards contributing to the reputation that English wines are gaining.

Chapel Down is a Kent based vineyard which now welcomes more than 50,000 visitors a year as one of England’s leading wine producers, and will see the expansion of the winery, a new distribution centre built, improvements to visitor facilities and a new brewery created due to recent investment.

Frazer Thompson, CEO of Chapel Down, said, “‘Brand England’ and its food and drink reputation is getting stronger. And with our wines winning international medals and gaining recognition with leading wine critics, and our production growing rapidly, we are now in a great position to grow our exports.”

“At Chapel Down, we have stepped up our international focus – we are exporting to a number of countries, including Hong Kong, Japan, Norway, Finland and Belgium, our PR activity is no longer limited to the UK, we exhibit at trade fairs in Europe and Asia, and we invite international journalists to the winery throughout the year.”

Biddenden vineyard is one of Kent’s oldest commercial vineyards having been established in 1969 to produce wines and ciders, it has grown from 1 acre to 23 acres with eleven varieties of grapes grown and fermented using the traditional methods.

Hush Heath Estate established their first vineyard in 2002 and have since expanded to cover almost 30 acres of land, and home of Balfour Brut Rosé. Hotelier Rupert Balfour–Lynn created a vineyard on an ancient estate in Kent solely to produce a top-of-the-market pink sparkler. His new winery openedin 2011 and the grapes are hand-picked in a planting system designed to maximise the soil and micro-climate. The result shows that the Balfour Brut Rose is a worthy challenger to Cristal and Laurent Perrier.

The Gusbourne Estate in Kent has over 40 hectares that are planted with the classic Champagne varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Gusbourne has earned its reputation as a producer of high quality wines. The original Gusbourne Estate in Appledore, Kent dates back to 1410. The first vines were planted that year. In 2010, the debut vintages of Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2006 and Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2006 were released to critical acclaim. Gusbourne quickly earned a reputation as a producer of outstanding quality wines, with accolades from some of the industry’s most exacting critics. They featured on the BBC programme Twelve Drinks of Christmas with experts Giles Coran and Alexander Armstrong and won 2013 IWSC English Wine Producer of the Year.

Smaller and less known is Terlingham, one of the UK’s smallest vineyard with its own wineries, Terlingham Winery. Perched above Charles Newington’s Kent emblem overlooking the North Downs near the historic Kent village of Hawkinge, vines were planted in 2006, with Bacchus, Rondo and Dornfelder joining the Champagne trio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Other small Kent Vineyards include Harbourne, Throwley, Squerryes and Herbert Hall.

“These figures are testament to the hardworking can-do attitude of our world class food and drink industry and shows the UK is a place the world comes to buy trusted, quality produce. There has never been a more exciting time for the English and Welsh sparkling wine industry and I look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength, taking its rightful place alongside champagne.”Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said, “This industry is fizzing. It shows our long-term economic plan is helping our exporters thrive and generate the jobs we need to secure the recovery.”

Julia Trustram Eve, Marketing Director of English Wine Producers, said, “It is a very exciting time for English sparkling wine, with more producers coming on to the market, more wine available to buy, year on year competition success and moving into new export markets. We’ve every reason to raise a glass or two in celebration.”