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Could English wine conquer the world? – BBC News

Image caption Lucy Fernandez from Toronto says she wouldn’t buy Chapel Down’s white wine

France, Italy and Spain are some of the world’s best known wine making countries but could a growing English wine stimulating industry ever threaten their predominance?

At English winemaker Chapel Down the opinions of a group of sightseers sampling the various wines it makes are mixed.

“A bit bitternes, ” is Toronto tourist Lucy Fernandez’s take on the vineyard’s Flint Dry white wine.

She says Canadians are open to booze wines from around the world, but she wouldn’t buy this variety.

However, Andrew from Adelaide has tried the Bacchus 2016 white and says it “compares quite well” to wines he’s used to back in South Australia.

Image caption Beatrice Ness from Paris is impressed with Chapel Down’s sparkling wine

Beatrice Ness, a teach from Paris, has sampled a effervescent assortment, arguably what the Kent-based vineyard is best known for, and is clearly impressed.

“This is as good as Moet champagne, ” she says of the Three Graces 2011, expenditure PS29. 99 a bottle.

“We buy a lot of foreign wines in Paris and I envision people would go for this.”

Growing industry

It’s no secret that English wine-making has taken off over the last decade, with industry sales reaching a record PS130m.

However, while around four to five million bottles are rendered each year, less is said about UK exportations, which stood at merely 250,000 in 2015, the most recent time for which figures are available.

Image caption Chapel Down is best known for its sparkling wines

Despite the smaller scale of domestic exports industry, its reaching is develop.

English sparkling wines were shipped to 27 markets last year compared with 19 in 2015, official statistics show.

With more UK land being used for grape growing, and the industry targeting exports of 2.5 million bottles by 2020, could the country be on track to becoming a serious wine producer on the world stage?

Chapel Down’s chief executive, Frazer Thompson, advises carefulnes.

He says the firm has realized “consistent growth” over the last seven years and is tapping a wider range of marketplaces, from North America to South East Asia.

Image copyright Chapel Down
Image caption “You require a dosage of realism, ” says Frazer Thompson, chief executive of Chapel Down

Like most English winemakers, the majority of his exports are of sparkling wines, which account for only over half of the firm’s production.

But he points out that exports are only a “part of the story” and the firm is still largely focused on the UK, one of the world’s biggest wine markets.

“In the rest of the world there is potential but you need a dosage of realism, ” he says. “It took the French 350 years to export 50% of their champagne and the UK is their largest market.”

Producers tend to see certain international markets as better bets than others, preferring places that like wine but don’t have huge domestic industries of their own.

Image caption Bob Lindo co-founded Camel Valley in Cornwall

France, Italy and Spain are “hard work”, says Bob Lindo, who founded the Cornish winery Camel Valley with his wife Annie in 1989.

But countries such as Japan, China and the US, which is his biggest marketplace, buy much more.

“We are sold in 23 US nations now, ” Mr Lindo says. “There are a lot of parts of America that don’t develop wine and there’s a very enthusiastic wine culture.”

Image copyright Camel Valley Wines 2017
Image caption The Camel Valley winery in Cornwall has done well in international competitions

Helpfully, English wine has shed its once negative reputation and is doing well in major rivals such as the Euposia International Challenge( Bollicine del Mondo) in Italy, which attracts sparkling wines from around the world.

Organiser Carlo Rossi says English brands regularly construct the top 10 in various categories, with wine producers Nyetimber, Hambledon and Camel Valley all having won ambers in the recent past.

“About 10 years ago it seemed a joke that the English could construct excellent sparkling wine, but there has been a surge in interest, ” he says.

Image caption Chapel Down develops a variety of grapes at its vineyards, including Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Bacchus

Chapel Down’s Mr Thompson believes better marketing is the key to disclosing the flair in service industries.

He notes how countries such as France play on the fact they are associated with rendering fantastic meat and guzzle, “so we buy French, even their lager which isn’t actually that good”.

“So England needs to sell itself as a better quality producer of food and sip, which it still doesn’t do well enough and wine can be a flag-bearer.”

Not everyone is convinced about English wine, though.

Malcolm Gluck, a British wine critic who has penned numerous books, says there is a “marvellous conspiracy” among winemakers and novelists to feign English wine is great.

“There are English wines that are interesting that cost PS12-15, ” he adds. “But they expensed two to three times more than comparable wines from South America or France, Italy and Spain.”

Image caption The UK has a shortage of land suited to wine developing

There are other barriers to building a world-beating wine industry, including a shortage of land suitable for grape developing and high set-up costs.

The English climate likewise restriction production mainly to the south of England, although rather perversely, things could improve in that respect because of global warming.

A study last year by climatologists at UCL recommended rising temperatures and rainfall could let vineyards thrive as far north as Elgin near Inverness by 2100.

They likewise claimed the Thames estuary would become warm enough to grow Malbec grapes.

Image caption Chapel Down’s winery in Kent

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Camel Valley’s Mr Lindo belief exports are on the rise gradually as the reputation of English wine flourishes but he’s not chasing them. He says he is busy enough catering to eateries and supermarkets up and down the UK.

He also thinks we should not judge the industry’s success by its scale.

“A lot of City fund is going into English wine and there is a risk it will become too commercialised, ” he says.

“You have to be really committed to run a vineyard, but if world markets gets flooded, producers who have been here from the beginning will suffer.

“There’s likewise been a lot of cooperation between English producers and I don’t want it to stop.”

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