Is British wine the next big thing?

Boost for UK wine industry

Image of a UK vineyard. Credit: WineGBEast/X

Confidence in the British wine industry is at an all-time high with the UK Government pledging new funding of £1.5 million to complement its rapid growth.

On Tuesday, April 16, Steve Barclay, the Environment Secretary, unveiled significant new financial backing for the wine sector during the annual WineGB conference at Plumpton College in East Sussex.

This support aims to propel the ongoing success of the rapidly growing English and Welsh wine industry.

British wine employment figures

The government has allocated £1.5 million this year for the Future Winemakers’ Scheme (FWS). This initiative will concentrate on education, training, and upskilling opportunities, with the industry forecasting the creation of thousands of new vineyard roles in the forthcoming years.

Barclay highlighted the potential for expansion within the UK’s wine production and trading sectors. ‘The UK has a long tradition of producing and trading wine, and the sector has significant scope to expand,’ he remarked.

‘Around 2,300 people work in the British wine industry with a further 8,300 people employed part time, with numbers expected to grow by 50 per cent next year,’ he added.

UK wine reforms

The scheme will roll out new courses at Plumpton College, aiming to enhance skills and knowledge in viticulture. Additionally, it is designed to expand training capacity, ensuring a sufficiently skilled workforce to meet the industry’s anticipated growth.

Further reforms were also disclosed, aimed at simplifying the regulatory environment for wine producers and traders.

These include new regulations allowing the production and sale of no and low-alcohol wine under the wine category, and more flexible rules for transforming imported wine.

UK wine industry future

Nicola Bates, CEO of Wines of Great Britain, emphasised the significance of this educational fund. ‘The launch of this important educational fund is hugely significant and will ensure that we can train more British winemakers and viticulturists to staff our growing industry,’ she stated.

She added: ‘We are the fastest growing agricultural industry with 4,200 hectares under vine, which is forecast to rise by 85 per cent by 2032.

‘After a bumper harvest of almost 22 million bottles last year, we need greater backing to ensure sustainable and transformative growth.’

Sam Linter, Director of Wine at Plumpton College and Chairman of Wine GB, also supported the strategic focus on training.

‘By prioritising training and development initiatives, we are nurturing a talent pipeline that will shape the landscape of winemaking and vine growing, elevate quality standards, and reinforce the UK’s position to becoming a key player in the global wine market,’ Linter explained.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, commented: ‘We welcome consultation on further reforms to the inherited EU rules for wine.

‘There is an opportunity to introduce greater flexibility for wine producers and importers, which could allow businesses to innovate and so help to boost the UK’s status as a global hub for wine.’

UK wine statistics

  • The UK is a major global wine trading hub, with a market value over £10 billion in 2022.
  • The number of vineyards in England and Wales has grown significantly, reaching nearly 1000.
  • Vineyard area in the UK has quadrupled since 2000.
  • Viticulture is Britain’s fastest-growing agricultural sector, employing about 2,300 people full time.
  • Employment in this sector is expected to grow by 50 per cent by 2025.
  • 2023 saw Great Britain’s largest-ever grape harvest, with an estimated production of 20-22 million bottles.
  • English Sparkling Wine is increasingly popular, producing 8.3 million bottles in 2022, largely due to ideal growing conditions in southern England.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.