The recent rainfall in July may have been unwelcome to some, but it has come at the perfect time for wine producers in England.
Thanks to the ideal weather conditions this year, growers are now predicting bumper harvests, which will undoubtedly boost the flourishing wine industry in the UK. With the number of vineyards across Great Britain reaching an impressive 943, as reported by WineGB, the trade group for the industry, the future looks promising for English wines. In 2022, the industry produced 12.2 million bottles, a significant increase from the 5.3 million bottles in 2017.
A Growing Industry
The English wine industry is experiencing remarkable growth, with exports rising from 4% to 7%, and production predicted to reach 25 million bottles by 2032. This growth is supported by the expansion of vineyard acreage, with 7,600 hectares (18,800 acres) of vines projected to be planted, compared to the current 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres).
Perfect Weather Conditions
The anticipation of a successful harvest is due to the perfect weather conditions experienced by vineyards. Augusta Raimes, a partner at Raimes English Sparkling in Hampshire, reminisces about the phenomenal year of 2018, which set high expectations for this year. Raimes credits the success to a favourable spring, where the frost arrived at the right time, and June’s abundant sunshine. Just as dry conditions were settling in, the much-needed rain arrived, ensuring the vines’ well-being. Raimes now hopes for a sunny August and September to further enhance the quality of the harvest, set to take place in October.
Increased Yield and Quality
The positive weather conditions have resulted in vineyards expecting a larger harvest this year. Early indications reveal more substantial and more abundant bunches of grapes, a promising sign for growers like Raimes. The chief executive and head winemaker at Sandridge Barton Wines, Duncan Schwab, echoes this sentiment, attributing this year’s success to the excellent reserves and flowers developed by the vines in the previous year. Schwab states that their 25-acre vineyard usually yields around 60 tonnes of grapes, but this year, that number could rise to 100 tonnes. The berries are showing pigmentation earlier than ever before, indicating a potentially exceptional vintage.
While the rain has been beneficial for vine growth, there is also a concern about disease levels rising due to increased humidity. To prevent this, vineyard owners must ensure good airflow through the canopy, often achieved by selectively removing some leaves. Schwab highlights the advantage of their vineyard’s location on the banks of the River Dart in Devon, where warm air rises and frost is less likely. The presence of a significant body of water helps maintain a temperate climate in the vineyard, reducing the risk of frost and creating a conducive environment for grape cultivation1.
The Ideal Summer for Wine Growing
Schwab describes this year as not far off from the ideal summer for wine growing. He explains that the previous year’s high temperatures, reaching 35°C, were not favourable for lighter, cool-climate grapes. However, this year’s conditions have been exceptional for all types of wine production.