The vineyard area of England & Wales has increased every year since 2004 according to official figures in the UK Vineyard Registry which is maintained by the Food Standards Agency.
For 2012, the total vineyard area of England & Wales was estimated to be 1,438 ha, of which 90% was bearing. The vineyard expansion which has occurred in the current cycle since 2004 differs from previous plantings in several key aspects. These include the scale of investment, rate of planting and increased use of technology to map soils and ensure precise planting patterns. Yet the most important and long-lasting change is in the choice of cultivars that have been planted.
In 2004 the UK’s most planted cultivar was the hybrid varietal Seyval Blanc (94 ha) followed by the German crossing Reichensteiner (89 ha). Plantings of Chardonnay at that time were a mere 36 ha. Fast forward to 2013 and Chardonnay has become the UK’s most planted cultivar with 327 ha, closely followed by Pinot Noir with 307 ha. The spectacular growth of these two cultivars follows the recognition of the very high quality potential of the English sparkling wine category. Almost all recent investment into the English wine industry has been directed towards sparkling wine and the cultivars of choice are those used so successfully in Champagne.
Whereas Chardonnay and Pinot Noir made up 13% of the UK’s vineyard in 2004, by 2013 they occupied 44% of a much larger national vineyard. The English wine industry is very much nailing its colours to the mast of sparkling wine and, judging by the quality from producers such as Nyetimber, Ridgeview and Camel Valley, this looks to be a very sound move indeed.