Tuesday, December 18, 2018

East Anglian growers can ‘rival Champagne wine-makers’

December 3, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

Parts of East Anglia could rival the Champagne region of France when it comes to wine-making, according to research from the University of East Anglia.

English wine is winning international acclaim, say climate and viticulture experts who have identified nearly 35,000ha of prime viticultural land for new and expanding vineyards – much of it in East Anglia, Kent and Sussex.

Steve Dorling, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “This summer’s heatwave has led to a record grape harvest and a vintage year for English and Welsh wine, prompting great interest in investment and land opportunities.”

University researchers used new geographical analysis techniques to assess and grade land across England and Wales for its suitability to grow grapes. Despite the trend towards warmer seasons, this season was still unusual in terms of climate.

Prof Dorling said: “English and Welsh grape yields are generally quite low and variable by international standards, so we wanted to identify the best places to plant vineyards and improve the sector’s resilience to the UK’s often fickle weather.”

Relatively few vineyards currently exist in some of best areas for growing grapes – including Essex and Suffolk. These parts of the country were drier, warmer and more stable year-to-year than some more established vineyard locations further south, said lead author Alistair Nesbitt.

“The techniques we used enabled us to identify areas ripe for future vineyard investments, but they also showed that many existing vineyards are not that well located, so there is definitely room for improvement and we hope our model can help boost future productivity.”

But growers looking to establish their own vineyard shouldn’t take the decision lightly, warned Dr Nesbitt. Entering into viticulture and wine production in England and Wales wasn’t for the faint hearted – the investment required was high and risks significant, he said.

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