Hang on in there, it’s not all doom and gloom!
The wine industry will be affected by BREXIT in many different ways, some good and some not so great…Although we’ve been worried by the threat of VI-1 certificates and new wine tariffs, there are still some positives for us wine lovers to look towards in the UK.
Sourcing wine from Europe
Over 99% of wine consumed in the UK is imported with around half coming from EU countries and the other half coming from the rest of the world. Now that we will have lost some of our trade deals with the EU, importers might be looking towards the New World more for wines to add to their portfolio’s. The Drink’s Business magazine suggests that wines coming from Italy, France and Spain will be more expensive for UK consumers due to the new UK Global Tariff (UKGT), which will apply to all goods imported into the UK.
Wine imports will be taxed an amount depending on their place of origin, for example, bottled, still white wines coming from Alsace, Bordeaux, Tuscany and Valencia will be taxed at a rate of £10 per hectolitre, whereas, Champagne’s tariff is much higher at £26 per hectolitre.
So if Champagne is going to cost more to the UK consumer from now on, then perhaps we’re going to start to look towards alternatives? Prosecco may be the substitute for many, a light, refreshing sparkler made for more of an everyday drinking style, however, if prices are forced to increase due to UKGT, then the demand for this product might also significantly decline…
English wines can step out of the shadows
The UK wine market might have it’s perfect opportunity to become more competitive and begin to “step out of it’s niche” (Jancis Robinson), giving our home grown wines a chance to shine and establish themselves as real players in the drinks industry.
This is great news for quality as well, since many English wineries are about to only get better. Hundred Hills winery in Oxford are launching their first wines this spring and hope that they will “rival the very best the world has to offer..” . This is quite a statement, however, practice really does make perfect, so we can expect vintages from wineries such as Hundred Hills to only get better with time. Not only due to increased expertise in viticulture (work in the vineyard) and viniculture (work in the winery) but also because our climate is getting warmer, which means riper grapes (more fruitiness) and less of that harsh acidity that you can sometimes associate with wines made in cool climates.
The most popular grape varieties planted in the UK are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Bacchus, Ortega and Pinot Meunier. Three of which are Champagne varieties, this is mostly due to the climate that we have here in the UK which is most similar to that of Champagne. Not only is the climate similar, but also the soils are predominantly chalk just like in Champagne and are proven to be perfect for the development of these popular grape varieties.
The UK vineyards share so many similarities to those in Champagne that producers such as Tattinger have invested in our terroir, to create their own English sparkling wine brands.
English bubbly’s are often considered to be quite expensive, with some even being priced higher than Champagne! This might decrease as brands have less start-up costs and begin to rely more on word of mouth marketing, on the other hand, they may want to increase prices to benefit from increased market share.
One other benefit for UK winemakers is that the new tariff rate on machinery such as presses and crushers will be reduced to 0%, from 1.7% in the external tariff system. This will make start-up costs for new vineyards easier to manage, as much of the machinery for winemaking is made outside of the UK.
Wine industry workers
Now we may not have many fancy Sommelier schools here in the UK, but we do have a growing interest in wine as our own wine industry takes off. Plumpton College in East Sussex now has a dedicated ‘Wine Division’ for teaching courses in wine business, wine production, viticulture and oenology. This suggests that in the future we might see more home grown talent rather than taking our vineyard workers and Sommelier’s from over seas.
This is necessary since coming to work in the UK has become less attractive for foreign workers after the announcement of BREXIT, due to a weaker pound against the Euro and now more restrictions on moving freely around Europe.
So is the future bright?
Many of the points above certainly point towards an exciting future for the UK wine industry, no matter if BREXIT happened or not, however, we still have a very small wine production. Countries such as Malta, Latvia and even Luxembourg produce more wine than the UK! So we have a lot of catching up to do, and this may take years but we do have the perfect climate and terroir for making what we’re best at, English sparkling wines.