UK winemakers celebrate “harvest of the century”

Wine producers across the UK are hailing 2018 the harvest of the century following a record-breaking summer and an unusually warm autumn, resulting in excellent quality grapes with high yields.

David Parkinson, CEO of WineGB, said: “This year’s extraordinary harvest offers the UK wine industry many exciting opportunities. It comes at a time when there is so much uncertainty around Brexit, particularly in the agricultural sector, and is a real boost for the country. With the rise in rural employment that we are likely to see over the next 20 years, the growth in wine tourism that will result from the expansion of wineries across the country and the continuing increase in exports, the future of the UK wine industry looks very bright.”

Some winemakers started to harvest in September and others are still picking now but all are reporting clean, ripe grapes with concentrated fruit, good sugars and acidity levels, thanks to the ideal growing conditions. Producers across the country are predicting an excellent year for English still wines, particularly reds. The unusually hot, dry summer has resulted in very ripe fruit. The outlook is just as positive for sparkling wine producers on both the quality and quantity front.

Many producers are reporting at least double the volume they harvested in 2017, which was a particularly challenging year for many due to the early frosts. With last year’s total volume at around six million bottles, the 2018 vintage is likely to be at least twice, if not three times the size. While it is too early to predict actual volumes at this stage, WineGB will be conducting a vineyard survey in the first quarter of 2019.

With demand for English and Welsh wine continuing to grow both at home and abroad, the extra volumes will be welcomed. As the export market continues to expand, there is also more and more demand for English wines from markets such as the US, Asia, Scandinavia, Japan and Australia, which presents further opportunities for producers.

Linda Howard, owner of Giffords Hall Vineyard in Suffolk, said: “Here at Giffords Hall, we are 60% up on last year, getting back to longer term averages. It has been a benign year – lovely quality with high volumes, no disease, and exceptionally high sugars and acidity – just about perfect, with the added bonus of a fair-weather harvest.”

Ian Sargent, owner of Laurel Wines in Yorkshire (and chairman of Mercian Regional Association), added: “This is without doubt our largest harvest and the fruit was in great condition for producing excellent wines. We believe that 2018 will be a great vintage, not only for Yorkshire but for all English and Welsh wine producers.”

Pictures: WineGB

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