UK winemakers raise a glass after sparkling year

Winbirri Vineyards. Winemaker Lee Dyer with a bottle of their multi award winning Bacchus 2015. Pict

Winbirri Vineyards. Winemaker Lee Dyer with a bottle of their multi award winning Bacchus 2015. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

Winemakers are toasting another successful year after a record number of bottles of still and sparkling wine from UK vineyards reached the market last year – up 64% on 2016.

HMRC figures show that 3.86 million bottles of UK-made wine were released for sale last year, up from 2016's 2.36 million bottles.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said the English wine industry was reaping the benefits from a 'huge' investment in the sector, leading to an increase in vines planted over the last decade.

It was also a good year for Norfolk wine with Winbirri Vineyards's Bacchus 2015 named the world's best single varietal white wine at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017.Lee Dyer, who runs the Surlingham vineyard, said he was expecting another good year ahead.

He said: 'We had a really good crop last year with a good quality of grape coming through.

'Most of our wine has sold and we are waiting fora new batch.'

While white wine tends to take a year to mature, red takes about two and Mr Dyer said he had just released his 2013 vintage of sparkling wine.

He added the award win had been life changing and believed it would lead to 'stock balancing issues' for years to come.

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Mr Dyer said: 'We have had fairly harsh weather with the snow which some times can help us. It can lead to us producing more fruit but I am not sure if that is something scientific or something that we have just found here.'

WSTA said last year's figures were the result of a bumper 2014 harvest for English vineyards, and the release of special edition and older vintage wines by several producers.

Flint Vineyard, based at Earsham on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, released a new vintage of wines over Easter including its first rosé.

It has doubled production from its 2016 vintage, which saw its 8,000 bottles sell out in five months.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: 'English wine releases reached a record high in 2017 with more varietals and vintages available, giving consumers a greater choice than ever before. With the high quality of English now so widely recognised, the wine industry's newest challenge is meeting growing demand.'