A vineyard in England “could not be cheaper”
England has enormous potential to expand its wine production, with one of the leading producers claiming that the price of wine land “could not be cheaper”.
Talk to beverage tradeIan Kellett, owner of Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire, was optimistic about the country’s prospects for expansion.
âThe price of land in England couldn’t be cheaper right now. The average price of farmland in the UK is Â£ 12,000 to Â£ 15,000 an acre, while in Champagne the price of a hectare of land ranges from Â£ 800,000 to Â£ 2.2 million.
âThere is a lot of viable land available for planting in England – we have only just started. It took 300 years for the people of Champagne to know where to grow things.
âTo get bigger yields you have to plant more vineyards and we’re always looking for opportunities to expand,â he said.
Predicting a ‘massive oversupply’ in 2019 due to an increase in new vineyard plantings across the country, Richard Balfour-Lynn of Balfour Winery in Kent believes the pandemic has helped restore the supply / demand balance .
âCovid has shifted the needle slightly, as have poor harvests in Europe and New Zealand, which means there is less wine available at the moment, so in the short term, the balance between supply and the demand is good.
âI’m worried that a lot of people are planting in England and I guess it’s easy. The key is to develop a brand that people recognize and understand as premium.
“I think a lot of people will have a hard time, as they assume it is easy to sell English wine, which it is not, but I am cautiously optimistic about the progress of the industry right now.
âWe aim to produce an average of 750,000 to one million bottles per year. We currently manufacture 500,000 bottles. We will mark our 20e anniversary next year, so I wouldn’t call it a rapid expansion, âBalfour-Lynn joked.
He described the 2021 harvest as âthe most difficult yearâ he has ever seen. âWe had frost in the spring and terrible weather in August, leading to potential rot issues, but we had a record harvest and good quality juices. The sugar levels are low which means we won’t be able to make a red still, but we can do anything we want other than that.
âYou had to examine your vines every day during the growing season – if you missed a spray for a day, you were in trouble. Some people have missed a day and suffered from it. It was about attention to detail, âhe said.
For Charlie Holland, CEO and chief winemaker of Gusbourne in Kent (pictured left), 2021 was the last harvest of his career, with yields at the estate falling below their average.
âWe have already picked at the end of October, but never in November. We left the grapes for our wines still longer for the sugars, because it was a cooler year. I’m pretty happy with what we have. Dropping the acid on our Chardonnay was a challenge.
âDespite everything thrown at us, we got good levels of sugar and acidity in our pinot, so I’m pretty optimistic considering where we were in the summer.
âThis kind of year was a very normal year for England when I first got involved in wine 15 years ago, but we have been wowed by the last decade, with its hot harvest in Septemberâ , did he declare. db.
Bob Lindo of Camel Valley in Cornwall found the 2021 vintage to be âbetter than expectedâ after âthe worst springâ he has ever experienced as a winemaker.
âAn Indian summer saved the day here, so things matured. Our yields are down about 30%, but we will be making decent wine this year, âhe said.
As to whether there’s a glut on the horizon for English wine, Lindo doesn’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.
âPeople are planting everywhere, so eventually we’ll have to worry about a glut, but it’s far. One of the biggest obstacles to the expansion of the industry is the unpredictability of climate and weather, âhe said.
As for Kellett of Hambledon, its yields have fallen by around 30-40% this year. âWe didn’t have any frost problems because we are close to the sea, which helps a lot. The biggest problem for us was the rainfall during flowering and during the summer months. The heatwave arrived a week too late, âhe said.
âWe picked our black grapes later than usual. I’m glad we’re only making sparkling wine this year. Although we obtained very clean fruits, all the wines that we will produce this year will be non-vintage, âhe added.