English Wine Week

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:48 pm on 23rd June 2021.

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Photo of Andrew Griffith Andrew Griffith Conservative, Arundel and South Downs 5:48 pm, 23rd June 2021

My hon. Friend makes a fantastic point. I look forward to consuming Yorkshire’s Lass or Yorkshire’s Lad. We should certainly support our small producers in what is, as I will go on to say, a growing industry in the United Kingdom.

A number of other colleagues have joined me to talk about the wine estates in their constituencies. My hon. Friend Greg Smith has mentioned the Chafor vineyard in his constituency, and I see on the Front Bench the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend Mims Davies, who plays host to Bolney, and Kingscote in East Grinstead.

English sparkling wine has had a very busy year despite the pandemic. With the current trend to stay local and to buy local due to the pandemic, the industry has adapted well to current restrictions. WineGB data suggests that the industry saw an increase of 30% in 2020 on the previous year, with 7 million bottles sold, and we have a great deal more to look forward to. Dermot Sugrue, winemaker at Whiston Estate, wrote recently that the 2020 harvest is

“in a word: Superb. Best…since 2003 &
2011.”

Peter Gladwin, the proprietor of the Nutbourne Vineyards, told me that he believes in some ways covid restrictions have helped the UK wine industry. Buying local, staycations and the multitude of good publicity have all boosted direct-to-consumer sales.

Wine tourism has also seen an increase in the lockdown, with more visitors than ever heading to our UK vineyards and wineries for their holidays, enhancing—and this is a very serious point—the rural economy and much-needed employment. A recent report commissioned by the South Downs National Park Authority, which itself does an excellent job at promoting English wine, estimated that we have seen 33,000 visitors coming to our 51 vineyards and 11 wineries.

If the authors of a recent report on climate change—another very serious topic—are to be believed, the South Downs wine harvest will only grow. Today, just 0.4% of agricultural land is currently used for viticulture, whereas the report estimates that up to 34% of land could be suitable in the future. This potential is already apparent in the wider country, as 2021 has seen 1.4 million vines planted, and over 5,000 acres have been planted over the past five years.

With restrictions easing, we cannot stop here. We must continue to try to help this great industry grow, and one way to help is through taxation. Wine Drinkers UK explained to me that currently excise duty on a bottle of still wine is £2.23 plus VAT, while excise duty on a bottle of sparkling wine is £2.86 plus VAT. There is literally a bubble tax. Maybe it is the forerunner of a broader tax on carbon emissions, but I have to say it does seem like a really odd place to start.