The speed of growth within the UK wine industry really does take your breath away. Last year saw a staggering 13.2 million bottles produced, and a further 1.6m vines planted, on top of the 1m that went into the ground in 2017. Which means future production can only get significantly higher. All of which is great news for the overall UK wine industry providing it can find a market for all the wine it is making. Which is why this week’s Wine GB annual tasting is even more significant than normal, says marketing manager Julia Trustram Eve. The chance to show the trade and its buyers just how far the British wine sector has come and why importers, retailers, and restaurant and bar groups need to find more space for them on their lists.
With another bumper harvest on its way it’s a good time for WineGB to be holding its annual tasting this week at London’s Lindley Hall. Here WineGB’s marketing manger, Julia Trustram Eve, looks back on another eventual and exciting year for English wine.
There has been a lot about English wine in the press this year. Can you give a summary of where the industry now is coming into the 2019 harvest?
You’re right – it has been another great year so far for the UK wine industry. We’re reaping the rewards of the epic 2018 harvest – the first examples, of course, being some stunning still wines which have already been winning great write ups and competition awards. Last year’s harvest broke all records with 13.2m bottle production (Souce: DEFRA).
Our vineyard growth continues with a further 3m vines planted earlier this year. We planted approximately 1.6m vines last year and 1m in 2017.
Our exports are growing, with the US being the primary target market for many of our exporters. Exports doubled last year from 4% to 8% of total sales. This is an area where a really collaborative group of producers are working well together to promote themselves, their brands and English wines.
We’re seeing other areas of successful collaboration on the tourism front; several clusters of vineyards within a region are working together to promote wine trails and tourism in their locality – working with tourism groups and other key outlets such as hotels and restaurants. At the Wine GB tasting on September 4 the South East region will be launching a Wine Visitors Guide, London, Surrey, Sussex & Kent, packed with listings of vineyards and wineries but also hotels and other outlets.
There has been some great media coverage over the year both here and overseas for our vineyards individually as well as the industry as a whole, which is certainly continuing to build awareness. More and more people are talking about them!
Competition successes this year were impressive across all the major competitions. We are also thrilled with what our own national competition, WineGB Awards, is doing to reinforce the quality of our wines. This year saw some notable wins for our still wines as well.
Earlier in the year, this year’s national campaign, English Wine Week, yielded some great coverage and saw more trade and vineyard activity as well as an increased reach through all media (social, broadcast and print).
WineGB has seen a fair amount of progress on its other projects in the last year. A lot of groundwork is being made with a number of government departments, from DIT, to DfE, also raising awareness with FCO/embassies to serve our wines and working on a new PDO/PGI scheme for when we depart the EU. These are just a few examples of the dialogue that WineGB is having.
What is the English wine industry getting right?
From a WineGB perspective, we now have one strong voice to represent the industry as a whole, which is a powerful tool in talks at the highest level and achieving results. This is an industry on a serious upward trajectory; its contribution in the future to agriculture, employment, rural economy, tourism and education will be far reaching.
We set out our projections for growth last year and will be reinforcing these with the publication of the latest industry report at the trade tasting on September 4 at the RHS Lindley Hall, Victoria.
We are also making great strides in growing exports and are working on a sustainability programme – more of that to follow later in the year.
Where do you think English wine still needs to make more headway…
As more wine comes on to the market, we recognise that communicating with current and future consumers is important. So understanding more about our consumers (both here and overseas) is critical. This also means working closely with all areas of the trade – they are extremely important ambassadors.
There are tremendous opportunities to link more closely with the on-trade – particularly with the growth of wine tourism over here. There are already some great partnerships between individual brands and hotels and restaurants. Our ambition is to see more English and Welsh wine served by the glass – it’s a great way to introduce our wines as well as to engage with more customers closer to the vineyards themselves.
What do you think about getting the balance between demand for English wine right and the amount of supply/production there is?
We know that demand is out there – the interest in our wines continues to grow. Media coverage and social media engagement is increasing that interest all the time. We can now boast more ready availability of our wines than ever before. The next stage is to engage with consumers to think about our wine as a matter of course.
What do you think about expanding English wine into new styles like Charmat and Frizzante?
We are an innovative industry and some exciting new styles are now on the market – several will be on show at the trade tasting this week. We are however mindful that we want to be very clear with the consumer about these different styles, and to that end WineGB is currently working on tightening up the parameters and regulations in order to provide this clarity.
At the heart of our industry is the traditional method sparkling wine sector – that is and will remain our strongest generic brand.
Tell us about your tasting this week on Wednesday?
Our primary motivation is to target the trade and press ahead of the start of the busiest trading season – Christmas. With the increasing amounts of sparkling wine now coming on to the market this is a prime time to headline English fizz for the festive season
Still wines will have had a chance to develop in bottle and many will also provide a perfect addition to a Christmas wine list.
We have great opportunities to showcase our wines in the early part of the year, through other trade events or our annual campaign English Wine Week. Many of our vineyards are already set up with a loyal customer base and will provide their own promotions either selling direct to consumers or through their own trade relationships.
What can we expect in terms of wine on show?
We’ve got more exhibitors than ever before on show this year, including some new brands just coming on to the market. It’s exciting to provide new opportunities for both trade visitors and the exhibiting brands to meet under one roof. The tasting gives them a great chance to showcase their wines alongside some the industry’s giants.
One popular feature is the free pour section, where some over 125 wines will be set out in style order – a great way to get to know the featured styles better.
This year we will have an additional free pour feature – the trophy winners in this year’s WineGB Awards – showing the best of the best in our winners – a great line up
The main feature of course will be the producers themselves, on show. This includes producers from both England and Wales, and representation of smaller producers on some of the regional vineyard stands, particularly East Anglia (Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex) and Wessex (covering Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire). The South East region will be launching their new visitor guide (as mentioned above).
What sort of special tastings/masterclasses are you doing?
We’ll have three seminars for people to go to. Firstly an industry briefing to be presented by our chairman Simon Robinson and director David Parkinson. This accompanies the publication of the latest industry figures from 2018 harvest and will outline the broader projections for the industry in the years to come. Secondly, a session on wine tourism and finally the announcement of the Harpers Wine Stars for England, hot off the press. The announcement will be accompanied by a tasting of some of the winners, and hosted by Harpers Wine Stars chairperson, Helen McGinn. Visitors can turn up on the day, or register via our website https://www.winegb.co.uk/trade/trade-tasting/
This is the greatest showcase for our industry and its wines – we head towards the 2019 harvest with a positive view and this is a great chance to catch everyone at this time. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for the trade and press to get to know our producers better, meet the personalities behind the wines.
Where are we in terms of the 2019 harvest? What can we expect?
So far so good! The recent hot weather over the Bank Holiday will have boosted the final countdown to harvest. We won’t be starting to pick quite as early as last year. The vines are in great shape after last year. Some wineries are already reporting a potentially high crop, but we have another four to six weeks to go.
On the whole it’s been a great growing season.
- The Wine GB tasting takes place at RHS Lindley Hall, London, SW1P 2QW featuring over 50 producers. For more information and to register email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.winegb.co.uk/trade.