Pop the English sparkling: British wines are on the up

POP the English sparkling wine - the UK's wine industry has reason to celebrate, with scores of new producers and vineyards opening, new research has shown.

Ryedale Vineyards have won numerous awards for their wines

Over the last five years almost 200 new producers have sprung up, with 37 newcomers alone last year, according to accountancy group UHY Hacker Young.

They say the expansion has been driven by the high quality English wines, which are increasingly winning recognition internationally.

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The news comes as little surprise to Elizabeth and Stuart Smith, of Ryedale Vineyards - currently the most northern commercial vineyard in Britain..

Ryedale Vineyards in the Yorkhire Wolds

The couple, who first planted at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds between Weston and Leavening in 2006, and began bottling their award-winning wines in 2009, also supply vines to vineyards across the country, and have seen a steady rise in business.

Their own wines too have won countless awards, and this year was awarded three bronze medals in the International Wine Challenge - building on 2015’s two medals.

Mrs Smith said the upward success of English wine can be partly contributed to the increase in knowledge in the field - which includes the development of a degree course in wine and viticulture at Plumpton College in Sussex.

She said: “We are now in our tenth year of production and we have won awards every year since starting production in 2006.

Ryedale Vineyards' Stuart Smith

“There are some amazingly wonderful wines coming from England, and the vineyards are creeping north.

“We’re currently the most northerly but we don’t expect that to last, because the knowledge is growing and people are becoming more adept at growing vines that are suitable for a northern climate.”

She said consumer confidence had also grown in English wine - thoughts backed up by the new report.

James Simmonds, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: “In recent years the wine industry has gone from strength to strength, and customers are now opting for English wines over French or Italian products, which 20 years ago would have been seen as a joke.

Ryedale Vineyards in the Yorkhire Wolds

“Products like English sparkling wine have now firmly established themselves at the same table as products such as prosecco or champagne.

“Many English vineyards do a lot more than produce wine, which can make them very profitable businesses. They are diversifying to offer tastings and tours, have restaurants, rooms for overnight guests and can even be a venue for weddings and other events.”

Supermarket Waitrose said its wine sales are on the up, with customers often choosing home-grown varieties.

It has seen a 14 per cent rise year-on-year of still English wines, and a 12 per cent increase in sparkling wine.

Ryedale Vineyards' Stuart Smith

Waitrose wine buyer Becky Hull said English Wine Week, which began on Saturday, draws attention to the growing range of local wines available.

She said: “We’re proud to stock the widest range of English wine in a supermarket. We continue to introduce wines from new English vineyards for our customers to experiment and enjoy.

“English Wine Week is important to mark the growing industry and many of the English wines we stock come from small beginnings, so we are really proud to be so closely involved in the English wine industry at such an exciting time.”