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The lunacy of the English wine industry

Our MD Nicky Forrest shares some thoughts on England’s green and Vineyard laden lands…


The lunacy of the English wine industry is not lost on me.   A marginal climate which makes it difficult to grow ripe grapes; vines that extremely susceptible to early Spring frost  (of which we have lots) and the fact that the UK is one of the world’s biggest importers of wine ensuring that home grown English wine is a tough sell.


So I was an obvious candidate for the week long Plumpton College ‘Intensive Principles of Vine Growing’ course earlier this month.   You see, despite the lunacy it’s always been my dream to plant a small vineyard in Kent where I live.


And it seems that I am not alone.  There were over 30 of us on the course all hoping to learn enough to plant a vineyard, keep the vines alive and maybe even produce some decent wine.   Some had already planted and had worked out that they needed some help.  Some were there to make money and were planting multiple hectares either to sell the grapes or produce their own wine.  And there was one guy from the North of Scotland who I assume had booked the wrong course.  My mum lives in Scotland and swears it’s as hot as the Bahamas but I’m not convinced.


So, I’ve come away from the course with a whole new skill set.   How to identify and analyse a good vineyard site, how to work out soil type and control fertility, how to plant, prune, train and manage fruit to leaf ratios and how to control pests and disease.  Interestingly the shortest part of the course was how to work out when or if you are ever likely to make a profit.


That said, there is a stack of money pouring into the English wine industry at the moment.  There are lots of highly educated, commercially successful people investing in the industry and it is predicted that the UK vineyard area will double in size over the next seven years.  But if we double the size of planting without the same increase in demand, prices will fall.  And if there is one thing the wine industry knows is that keeping your image and price up is key – see New Zealand for further details.  English wine needs to remain premium.


But somehow I don’t think that my ½ acre of Pinot Blanc will rock the stats too much.   And I’m planning on drinking most of it not selling it.