The country built around drinking pints by warm pub fireplaces or, when things get really cold, turning to Scotch is suddenly one of the world’s fastest growing wine regions thanks to increased interest in English and Welsh bubbly (and, slowly, still wines, as well). And adding to the new excitement over British wine, the UK’s wine industry has announced it is now planning to plant a record 1 million new vines over the next year.
Overall, these 625 acres worth of new plantings will help the UK produce about 2 million more bottles of wine each year – giving the industry an estimated £50 million boost. “2017 will see the largest number of vines ever planted in a single year in the UK, and underlines the popularity of both English sparkling and still wines with the wine-buying public,” said viticulture consultant Stephen Skelton, according to The Drinks Business. “Producers have seen demand soar, both at home and abroad, and are planting for the future.”
Joining in on the British bubbly boom is two major French champagne producers, Taittinger and Vranken-Pommery Monopole, both of which are part of the many wineries who will be adding to their acreage in the next twelve months. “The French finally admit they like our wines,” said wine expert Oz Clarke. “New York decides that English bubbles are the next big cool wine ‘thing.’ And we are planting a million new vines in our nation this year. We are bubbling with confidence
Plenty of factors are contributing to this success. Technological advances in viticulture and meteorology have made wine grape production easier in general. But global warming is also creating more favorable weather patterns for grape growing in the UK’s warmer southern regions of England and Wales. As wine production becomes more viable and quality increases, demand has been surging as well. “English wine is growing in popularity among our customers and we’ve seen a steady increase in sales over the last few years,” Nick Jarman, general manager at London’s Oxo Tower restaurant, told The Guardian. “Often our customers are surprised that the quality is so excellent.”
Though Americans might be surprised as well, finding similar examples stateside isn’t difficult. Think about how quickly states like Washington and Oregon have become world-class wine producers. Or maybe a good analogy would be New Mexico—an area that was off most American wine drinkers’ maps that struck gold with its sparkling brand Gruet. But however you want to frame it, our own Ray Isle recently penned an article that stated his thesis quite clearly: “England’s Sparkling Wines Can Now Rival Champagne.”