Not quite sure where to put this article… but may be of interest to some. nb: Spoiler alert, it’s written by the Grauniad hence: " (Sussex sparkling wine) often beats French fizz in blind tastings. " which might be of news to the wealthy vignerons of Champagne.
The article does finally answer that nagging question as to how E.S.W. might commercially survive. The answer is wine tourism, as part of a combined package. Hopefully the local planning authorities will be in favour.
I have read this article, and also the Tourist plan, in some detail. It raises several interesting questions about various aspects of the English wine industry.
The first point that occurred to me was that the cost of this document was paid by the taxpayer. The large Sussex wineries have millions of pounds in share capital and are therefore big enough and ugly enough to pay for it themselves.
The second point was that the industry body, WineGB, has a remit to promote English wine. It has in the recent past wanted to take steps to promote wine tourism. It comes as some surprise to see Sussex wineries going their own way bypassing WineGB and making their own bid to the Government for help to promote Sussex and try and make it the premier English wine tourism destination. It also comes shortly after Sussex went on its own way, bypassed WineGB and got itself a PDO designation.
The plan is an ambitious one. In some aspects it is very precise, eg job creation, yet is vague about costing.
The bottom line is that the only way English wineries make money is through cellar door sales. Trade prices are tough. Therefore tourism is critical to profitability. All these Sussex wineries think in grandiose terms. Smart accommodation, fancy eating places. Lots for the customer to be attracted to. Those add ons require investment. Most of the Sussex wineries have run at a loss for years. I wish them luck in their ambitions. But I am tired of all this constant theme of beating the French. There are some very good ESWs, but the French know what they are doing and have been in the game a long time. Their output and market share in huge in the UK, our small offering is so far behind in terms of volume that our offering is never going to seriously compete. As for Prosecco imports of around 130m bottles a year…we don’t even register on that scale.
I suspect that the potential competition on price from Kentish wine vaults is a competitive factor that has had an impact on Sussex producers. I accept that KWV are making Charmat method, but they will be cheaper. All the great British public want is a pleasant tasting fruit fizzy wine. With the average price of a bottle of wine at £6.50 and 94% of all wine sold in the UK is under £10 a bottle Sussex wineries will have a fight on their hands.
Well reasoned @Andrew1990, and likewise I wish them well in Sussex.
I tend to regard E.S.W and Champagne as totally different wines, so its kind of frustrating to see Journalists missing that point.
As an aside (sort of related) - I know of a vineyard in Yorkshire which struggles to make wine, but is doing OK with the restaurant & accommodation.
I wonder if the recent Gov initiative to make changes to UK ‘wine’ industry (imported bulk wine can be fizzed up, watered down, blended and bottled) will undermine E.S.W. ? or are they totally differant products.
The changes to the UK wine industry and the new duty rates have led to some considerable discussion amongst makers. Let’s say they don’t think either measure will do them any favours.
Oh and one amusing point in the Tourism report was the suggestion by the authors that wineries should offer, inter alia, hot air ballooning to their ever increasing number of tourists. It made me think that the time will come when the Sussex skies with be thick with balloons full of ESW sipping tourists so much so that pilots landing at Gatwick may have to “weave round” all those balloon tourists on their final “run in.” Taking off does not bear thinking about…