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    ‘Near perfect year’ for English wine

    Supervisor Sonny O'Connell inspects crop as pickers harvest Chardonnay grapes at one of English wine producer Chapel Down's vineyards, near Maidstone in southern Britain, October 5, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville

    Britain is set to have its largest-ever grape harvest, WineGB, which represents the English and Welsh wine industry, said.

    According to the industry association’s 2023 post-harvest report, this ‘miracle’ harvest is set to produce an estimated 20-22m bottle production.

    Key highlights of the report:

    • The harvest is 50 per cent bigger than Britain’s previous record year in 2018.
    • The top 25 per cent of vineyards recorded an average of 15.60 tonnes/ha (6.31 tonnes/acre).
    • The top four grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier and Bacchus performed exceptionally well, with the average of all vineyards almost reaching 10 tonnes per hectare.
    • Yields have risen as more vines have been planted. In the last five years alone, hectarage has grown by nearly 75 per cent and hectarage in production today is over 1,000ha higher than in 2018.

    Yield data was gathered from WineGB’s members and represents the most comprehensive early study available. Producers and growers of all sizes, and across the wine growing regions in England and Wales, took part.

    “2023 will be a vintage to remember,” commented Stephen Skelton, viticulture consultant and the author of the report.

    “The excellent yields are attributed to not only the near perfect weather for grapes at key times of the growing season, but also comes on the back of more hectares than ever before coming into production, having seen nearly 75 per cent growth in plantings in the last five years alone.”

    Despite a lacklustre cold summer, the conditions throughout the year proved perfect for wine production boosted by the late heat in September. The highest yields were achieved in the drier and warmer regions, East Anglia, the South East, and Wessex (Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Isle of Wight).

    Investment in the last five years has led to a substantial increase in vine plantings. Vineyard hectarage now in full production is some 3,230ha, compared to 2,138ha in 2018 – a growth of 151 per cent.

    “There was a silver lining to our miserable summer, and that is a fantastic season for wine. UK consumers are drinking more and more home produce and at the same time exports are going up especially in the Nordics and Japan. We look forward to having more wine to present to our growing consumer base,” Nicola Bates, WineGB chief executive, said.

    “So to be on trend ensure that you are serving English and Welsh wines for Christmas and New Year. There has never been a better time to buy British.”

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