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Bumper harvest offers English winemakers further fizz

LONDON (Reuters) – Forget inexperienced fields and clouds. Blazing sunshine and rows of grapevines are actually a rising a part of the English countryside, resulting in an increase in regionally produced glowing wine – boosted this 12 months by a bumper harvest.

Chapel Down glowing wine is seen at Chapel Down Winery in Tenterden, Kent, Britain, October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

At the Chapel Down vineyard in Kent, about 40 miles southeast of London, dozens of fruit-pickers are busy loading grapes into bins for the harvest, which is about 60 p.c larger than final 12 months’s.

While Britain’s 2018 summer time was the joint-hottest on file — including to considerations about global warming — the warmth has been a boon for England’s wine trade, which accounts for about 2 p.c of all of the wine purchased in Britain.

“The conditions have been, frankly, perfect,” stated Mark Harvey, managing director of the wines business at Chapel Down.

“We are seeing huge demand for the limited supply that we’re able to deliver to the market, so the need to bolster stocks is urgent. To have a harvest of the scale that we’re having this year is just the best.”

At Chapel Down, which has chalky soil just like the well-known Champagne area of France and utilises the identical “Traditional Method” of winemaking, the bumper harvest has come at an opportune time.

Trade information from Britain’s customs service present imports of champagne into Britain have fallen to a 17-year low, partially reflecting the pound’s post-Brexit fall towards the euro.

GRAPHIC – UK champagne imports: reut.rs/2A0isBV

“Champagne prices have crept up because of the weakness of the pound. Does that make it a more attractive place to be selling English sparkling wine? Undoubtedly,” Harvey stated.

Early morning mist rises as migrant employees put together to select grapes at Chapel Down Winery’s Kit’s Coty winery in Aylesford, Kent, Britain, October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Other wineries inform an analogous story.

Simon Robinson, chair of the Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) commerce physique and proprietor of the Hattingley Valley vineyard in Hampshire, reckons British winemakers have additionally benefited from a rising desire for native produce amongst customers and an improved standing amongst wine critics.

“That’s what’s changed over the last few years — particularly the larger producers have been concentrating on quality, with a significant degree of success,” he stated.

THE BREXIT TERROIR

The plentiful harvest has been a welcome distraction from uncertainty forward of Brexit, attributable to happen in March subsequent 12 months.

While the majority of Chapel Down’s wines are bought domestically, the manufacturing course of is closely worldwide.

Outside its warehouses there are large steel tanks constructed by a French company, all filled with wine. Inside there are strains of barrels of French oak, in addition to large urgent machines constructed by a German company.

And on the vineyards, groups of principally Eastern European employees, many Romanian, choose the grapes.

How straightforward it will likely be for wineries to draw seasonal labour for the harvest after Brexit stays to be seen.

Slideshow (20 Images)

“It’s a big issue. It’s an issue in terms of grape supply into the wineries in the UK, it’s a big issue for Kent. There’s lots of fruit that needs to be picked in Kent,” Chapel Down’s Harvey stated.

“I’m confident that we’ll find a solution, but the answers aren’t there yet, that’s for sure.”

And within the longer-term, the prospects for England’s wine trade might nicely hinge on Britain’s potential to strike commerce offers with nations outdoors the European Union.

“Hattingley Valley sells roughly between a third and 40 percent of its own brand for export. The biggest market by far is the United States. After that is probably Australia and Japan,” Robinson stated.

Chapel Down’s Harvey additionally highlights the United States as a serious potential supply of progress for the company.

By distinction, the EU isn’t such a giant market for English winemakers, given the prominence every wine-producing nation offers to its personal product.

“The idea that we would introduce English wine is a bit difficult,” Robinson stated, including that Germany not less than appeared to be just a little extra open-minded.

But proper now, it’s unimaginable to say if the British wine trade’s quick progress will probably be aided or impeded by Brexit.

Underlining the problem, WineGB estimates that three million grapevines have been planted over the past three years.

“In a reasonably good year, that should produce around 8,000 or 9,000 tonnes of grapes,” Robinson stated.

“And I have no idea where those grapes are going to be processed.”

Reporting by Dylan Martinez, Helena Williams, Will Russell and Andy Bruce; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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