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

I thank my hon. Friend for his endorsement of the health benefits of sparkling wine, and I am sure he himself is a sparkling example of that as well. In the long term, I am confident that such a change in taxation would be a good deal for the Chancellor.

Another current issue that the wine industry in Britain is facing is the lack of seasonal workers able to come over and help with the harvest. There is currently only one UK college I am aware of that promotes the very highest level of viticulture course, and that is in the constituency of my hon. Friend Maria Caulfield, which is Plumpton College. Its principal, Jeremy Kerswell, is very engaged in expanding this space and stepping into that opportunity. I believe that, together, we can find a happy balance between gaining seasonal workers, but also encouraging more British people to take up the wonderful career opportunities offered in viticulture.

On the subject of Government hospitality and patronage of home-grown wine, I have tabled a number of written questions in this House, from which I learned that in March of last year English wines made up only 10% of the Government wine cellar. However, I am delighted to report that Government are busy rectifying this oversight. In 2018-19, 49% of wines purchased for Government hospitality were English or Welsh, and that has improved this year to 73%—a commendable direction of travel and one we should really celebrate in English Wine Week.

Since I became chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for wine of Great Britain, the members and I have been pushing the Government to promote English wine as much as possible. It is something I will continue to champion, and I was grateful for the commitment given in this Chamber last week by my hon. Friend Nigel Adams, as a Foreign Office Minister, that he will encourage all British high commissions and embassies to stock their cellars with home-grown produce. This would help, support and encourage the growth of the English wine industry on a global scale. Boosting exports is a major cause for optimism. Today we drink far more Australian wine than the Australians drink English wine, so there is an opportunity to redress that imbalance thanks to the new outline trade deal agreed by the International Trade Secretary. Such opportunities will be firmly on the agenda, or the menu, at the SussExport event to be hosted by Wilton Park this July for all export businesses in Sussex.

English Wine Week is also an outstanding opportunity to celebrate the community institutions that serve our local English wine—the great British pub. Pubs provide a warm welcome and a safe place to enjoy company, perhaps a glass of English sparkling wine, and often delicious food. Many are cherished and characterful buildings used for hospitality over the centuries.

To help our hard-pressed hostelries, I have launched a South Downs pub guide to encourage my constituents and visitors to the South Downs back to the booths, benches, beer gardens and bar stools of these local favourites. From the Foresters Arms in Kirdford, to the Thatched Inn in Hassocks, to the Holly Tree in Walberton to the White Horse in Graffham, all points of the compass in Arundel and South Downs are well served by an array of local pubs. I am thankful to Squires garden centre and Harwoods Land Rover for making this guide a possibility. It is not yet quite, as they say, available in all good bookshops, but copies will be available in time for unlocking on 19 July. In the meantime, it is at southdownspubs.com.

I believe that it is important to celebrate and support this growing British industry in any way that we can, from promoting it on the international stage to ordering a bottle or two occasionally for ourselves. It is successful, sustainable and with plenty of room to grow.