The UK wine industry: how’s it going?

Today, Wine GB, the official body for wine production in the UK, have released their annual report. It’s a snapshot of the state of play, and has some very useful statistics in it – although the figure for area under vine is almost certainly an underestimate, and while it says that there are 3700 hectares, the figure is likely to be well in excess of 4000 hectares now.

The English and Welsh (although there are very few vineyards in Wales, and just two wineries) wine industry is going very well it seems. Vineyard area is up 70% in five years, and further planting is still underway.

In terms of varieties, it’s the three classic Champagne varieties dominating, with Bacchus (almost all for still wines) in support.

The most encouraging news is regarding sales. It wasn’t so long ago that opinionated industry thought leaders were predicting doom – a glut of wine that no one wanted. The figures show that sales are keeping up with production. The split is two-thirds sparkling, one-third still at the moment. In 2021 sales rose 31% over the previous year to 9.3 million bottles. Direct-to-consumer sales have been growing and these now account for over 50% of sales, which is important because it’s much more profitable for producers. Wine tourism is becoming a big thing. Exports represent 4% of total sales, which is a good start, but could do with some growth.

And finally, some good news on the environmental front. The Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB) scheme continues to grow, with 83 members covering 77 of the country’s vineyards, which accounts for around 55% of the total hectarage under vine. Let’s see more of this: why not 100%?