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  • Writer's picturePaul Andrews

Sparkling Winemakers In Britain Raise A Glass To New Opportunities

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay has welcomed the scrapping of outdated rules inherited from the EU. The reforms made possible by leaving the EU will uncork innovation, encourage sustainable practices and reduce burdens for businesses.


In addition to the UK’s longstanding status as a global wine trading hub, with a wine market worth over £10 billion last year, England and Wales have a fast-growing winemaking industry.


Now boasting almost 900 vineyards, hectares under vine in the UK have more than quadrupled since 2000. Viticulture – the cultivation and harvesting of grapes – is now Britain’s fastest-growing agricultural sector, employing around 2,300 people full time with a predicted 50% growth in jobs by 2025.


WineGB also reports 2023 is Great Britain’s largest-ever grape harvest, expected to produce an estimated 20-22m bottles and over 50% bigger on Britain’s previous record year in 2018.


Benefiting from perfect growing conditions in the south of England, English Sparkling Wine has seen a surge in popularity in recent years with 8.3 million bottles produced last year. The home-grown fizz is expected to be a popular choice for Brits to see in the New Year.


From 1 January 2024, makers of English Sparkling Wine will no longer have to use mushroom-shaped stoppers and foil covers on bottlenecks, giving producers the choice to opt for simpler packaging to reduce both waste and costs.


Restrictions will also be scrapped on the making and selling of piquette – a lower-alcohol drink dating back to antiquity, made by extracting the remaining goodness from grapes left over after winemaking. This gives producers the option to create new income streams and tap into consumer demand for lower-alcohol drinks.


In a move welcomed by wine traders, the government will also remove the requirement for imported wines to have an importer address on the label, reducing administrative burdens for businesses.


Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Our departure from the EU gives us the opportunity to review and scrap outdated and burdensome rules that have been holding back our wine sector. The reforms we’re introducing will help our wine producers and traders become more profitable, dynamic, and sustainable – while freeing them from pointless red tape."


“Looking ahead to 2024, I’m committed to this government continuing to support our world-class winemakers, vineyards and traders to grow and innovate.”


Nicola Bates, CEO of WineGB, the trade association for Great British vineyard and wine producers, said:

“We welcome the additional choice that comes from this first phase of actions from the wine reform consultation. There will be producers who are keen to take advantage of all and every option to reduce materials on bottles, so we can expect to see fewer foils on sparkling allowing you to celebrate that bit faster, and with an environmental benefit."


“We look forward to working with Government and the Defra team on future consultations, and am sure they will be as constructive as those now being implemented.”


The government also announced that businesses will be able to sell prepacked still and sparkling wine in 500ml and 200ml sizes as well as a new 568ml ‘pint’ quantity.


The reforms coming into force tomorrow from 1 January 2024 follow this year’s Wine: reforms to retained EU law consultation on the overly complex and bureaucratic existing 400-page rulebook for wine. The changes aim to facilitate international trade and foster domestic innovation and growth.


The UK wine market was worth over £10 billion in 2022 in off-trade and on-trade sales, and the UK’s developing domestic production sector has attracted significant global investment.


The UK is a global hub for wine. It is home to a diverse and dynamic wine sector and is the second largest importer of wine in the world by value.


In 2022, off-trade sales of still, sparkling, and fortified wine via supermarkets, convenience stores, and specialist off-licences in the UK were worth around £7.6 billion, while on-trade sales through hospitality outlets were worth an estimated £3.5 billion.


The domestic winemaking sector in England and Wales is by comparison very small, but rapidly growing and developing a global reputation for quality. Production reports for 2022 show a 36% increase in production. There has been a 74% growth in hectarage of vines between 2017 and 2022 (from 2257ha to 3928 ha).

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