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Wine industry bubbles away nicely while craft whiskey and gin soars

Authored by Phil Meekin

Phil Meekin

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Approximate read time: 3 minutes

After many steady years of growth, the UK wine industry seems to be reaching a well-deserved peak having grown in favour with wine drinkers everywhere from America to France. Over the next 12 months, British wine producers will plant a record 1 million vines which should allow for 2 million more bottles to be produced every year.

In the last 10 years, England and Wales has seen a 135% increase in the number of acres planted with grapevines. These sorts of figures show that wine production is one of the fastest growing agricultural products in the UK currently.

Many reasons have been credited for the growth in UK production and the quality of the wine we are producing but it has seen sales growing consistently in supermarkets, such as Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, and led to many of these wines being stocked in some top restaurants up and down the country.

Rob Graves, head of wine and food buying at Harvey Nichols, spoke about the continuing popularity of British wines with their customers; “Sales have been steadily increasing since 2011, but in 2016 we saw a peak in interest… Our customers are hugely supportive of this category and they are keen to taste wines from lesser-known producers.”

The success of British wine could be down to more precise weather forecasts helping farmers deal with a constantly changing weather system or technology improvements creating meters that can help determine the best time to harvest the crop for the best taste.

However many people have credited global warming which has given the UK a later growing season making the industry viable in Kent, the east of England and some parts of Wales. Regardless of the reasons with sales booming inside the UK and outside, as exports soar, now is a brilliant time for Britain’s wine growers.

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Whilst the wine industry grows nicely, craft gin and whiskey is booming pushing global giants further out of the market. According to a study by accountancy group UHY Hacker Young, in the UK last year, more than 50 new distilleries opened showcasing the success and popularity of the UK craft spirits sector.

This accounted to a 25% increase in new distilleries in England, up to 35 from 28 the previous year. In 2016, 18 distilleries opened in Scotland a rise from the 12 that opened in 2015. As the numbers of distilleries grows, so do the sales. Gin broke the £1 billion mark for the first time last year in the UK.

James Simmonds of UHY Hacker Young, who put together the survey, spoke to The Guardian about the findings; “Both the craft spirits and the craft brewery sectors are going through a period of explosive creativity. You can see that in everything from the logos, branding and advertising of these products. The quality of the product is streets ahead of their big brand competitors.”

The sector is also being fuelled by the merger and acquisition activity that is taking place as giants of the industry attempt to get their own piece of this lucrative craft alcohol market. One of the best known cases of this relates to London gin-maker Sipsmith who was sold to Japanese company, Beam Suntory, last December.

Beam Suntory, which owns Jim Bean and Teachers, are thought to have paid £50m for the brand and Sipsmith’s founders have stayed on to run the business. With sales such as this and craft beer brand, Brewdog, recently valued at £1bn, the sector is booming and shows no signs of slowing down.

So whether it is wine, gin, whiskey or even beer you are after, there are plenty of great, locally produced craft varieties for you to choose from made right here in the UK.

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