“The amount of change and development is sometimes hard to assess from an insider’s point of view, but really there is so much happening in the UK wine scene and we hope to convey that notion to visitors.” That’s how Simon Thorpe MW, chief executive of WineGB, sets the scene for the body’s annual tasting that takes place at London’s Lindley Hall on September 6. It will once again be the opportunity of the year for buyers and the UK wine trade to see for themselves what is happening in the fast changing UK wine scene.
You can register for WineGB’s annual tasting on September 6 at the Royal Horticultural Halls, Lindley Hall in London that takes place between 1o.30am and 5.30pm here.
Can you tell us what we can expect from the September tasting?
The annual tasting provides a great picture of the industry. With each vintage we understand more about the styles of wine produced and the consumer connection to those wines, and we again have a wide selection of wineries attending, including some for the first time. So, it will be a blend of the established businesses showcasing their latest vintages and NPD as well as some newer producers coming to market.
Any key highlights for people to look forward to?
Highlights: We have focus tables which are looking to capture some of the most recent trends: growth in still wines, multi-vintage sparkling wines, Blanc de Noirs and non-traditional method sparkling wines. Of course, the tasting benefits from having all the local winemakers on hand, so it’s also a real coming together of the movers and shakers.
What would you hope buyers and visitors discovered and went away from the tasting thinking about the the UK wine scene?
I think they must make up their own minds, but I hope we can display the energy, drive and sense of exploration which typifies the industry. The amount of change and development is sometimes hard to assess from an insider’s point of view, but really there is so much happening in the UK wine scene and we hope to convey that notion to visitors. And, of course, we want our visitors to be able to appreciate the endeavours of producers to create world class wines.
What key developments have you seen in the industry in the last year?
It’s clear that the vintages reflect very clearly the weather conditions of the growing cycle. That sounds obvious, but perhaps the variability of the weather has a bigger impact in the more marginal viticultural regions. If the vintage allows for riper flavours, then there is a larger amount of still wine (as in 2020) if it’s a cooler year then we seem to see more sparkling wines.
We all know about the quality of sparkling wines but how would you assess the still red and wine scene now?
A recent report on the impact of climate change on viticulture in this country pointed to how warmer temperatures will lead to more viable red wine production. We are just at the beginning of that journey, but we are seeing an increasing number of excellent reds, even some from a cooler vintage like 2021. There are some really exciting wines coming through.
What are the key short term opportunities for WineGB and English andWelsh wine?
I think it’s key to establish great relationships with your customers, whether that’s individual consumers at the cellar door, or trade customers in the on and off trade. As volumes and availability grow, those businesses with excellent routes to market will have a definite head start.
And long term goals and ambitions?
It’s clear that we, collectively as an industry, want to establish Great Britain as a sustainable wine region of world renown, recognised and celebrated for the quality of its wines and visitor experiences. That’s the WineGB mission and sounds pretty good to me.
What are the key challenges getting in your way to overcome?
I’m not sure there are challenges getting in our way, I wouldn’t look at things in that context. It’s more a case that there are so many things which we would like to do as WineGB and as an industry, tackling the most important elements first and doing things well is the challenge.
What are the key export opportunities for you to go for?
The core target markets of Scandinavia, North America and Japan remain the biggest opportunities and where we are concentrating our efforts.
You have had a big sustainability push in the last year – what are the latest goal, targets and achievements there?
Sustainable Wines of Great Britain is doing well. The scheme now has 83 members and covers 77 of the country’s vineyards which account for around 55% of the hectarage under vine. It’s growing, and there are more wines bearing the hallmark. In the next 3 years we are looking to increase its reach to as much of our production as possible, and how to add in social and governance elements to the scheme. We need to build consumer awareness of the scheme, but more importantly to ensure that wine consumers understand we are committed custodians of the land and resources we use.
In your time as head of WineGB what do you think have been your key achievements?
You’ll need to ask other people that question.