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English wine has come a long way since the first commercial vineyard in Hambledon in 1952. The UK has over 500 vineyards and 165 wineries and according to Wine GB the 2018 harvest is estimated to produce around 15.6 million bottles, the largest harvest on record (130% increase from the 2017 harvest). A record number of winemakers and viticulturist have enrolled at Plumpton College and even French champagne houses such as Taittinger and Louis Pommery have bought land and planted vines in England.
Even more interesting has been the growth of wine tourism in the South East. Nicola Boarer and Justin Lay are the owners of English Wine Tasting & Tours who live in Battle, East Sussex and focus on bringing wine tourists (domestic and international) to the rural countryside on wine tours.
“We started our English wine tour business in 2015 and it’s grown ever since. Justin and I met in London and moved back to Sussex to start a family, but when our friends came to visit us in Battle we took them to local vineyards and they were amazed at the quality of our wine, so we thought there must be a business around bringing Londoners out to visit the vineyards. We soon discovered that English Wine not only appeals to local Londoners but has a growing appeal to international visitors in particular Northern Americans and Scandinavians”. Nicola Boarer, Owner English Wine Tasting Tours
Given the growth of the English wine industry, wine tourism is in focus nationally with Visit Britain and Visit England who are investing in promoting the industry internationally to tourists. WineGB estimate that an additional 20,000 to 30,000 jobs will be created from the English wine industry and by 2040 wine tourism in the UK could generate an additional revenue alone of £658m per annum
“Wine tourism is really the next thing for rural economies as the government is looking at ways to get people out of London to spend their pounds. Our public tours run from London Bridge and 35% of our wine tour guests are American, 5% international travellers and the remaining 60% are Londoners. We are working with Visit Britain to increase the international rural visitors to visit the countryside and to spend money outside of London.” Nicola Boarer, Owner English Wine Tasting Tours
The Wine Garden of England which is organised by Visit Kent also promotes wine tourism internationally for seven Kent vineyards and the surrounding areas. Vineyards like Gusbourne near Rye and Chapel Down near Tenterden are helping push forward wine tourism with further investment in tasting rooms and tourist facilities.
“We visit many of the local vineyards in Kent and Sussex on our wine tours and people are amazed by the quality and range of wines we produce in England. Many guests don’t have much information about our wine industry so our tours have to be educational, informative and fun. On our tours guests don’t just learn about 1 or 2 vineyards but the whole English wine industry, who the movers and shakers are, including 2000 years of winemaking history on English soil which our international guests, especially Americans love to hear and learn about. You also get to try a wide range of English wines without worrying about the driving.” Nicola Boarer, Owner English Wine Tasting Tours
The growth in wine tourism also supports the hospitality industry and local producers, with Kent and Sussex becoming a hotspot for staycations with people looking for food and wine weekends away that are easy to reach and deliver on their gastronomic requirements.
Brexit plays another role in innovating new markets and wine tourism will have an important part after we leave the EU.
“We get asked a lot on wine tours what will Brexit do to the wine industry and we tell people there will be some give and take after the dust settles. If our currency weakens against the dollar that would help wine tourism but it also means wine equipment and machinery may increase in cost from international suppliers. Much of the picking labour is from eastern European countries so temporary work visas may be required for seasonal grape pickers. The days of when London’s EastEnders used to come down to pick fruit and hops are gone, but the history still lives on our wine tours. We tell the full story as we travel through the countryside visiting vineyards, passing by apple orchards and hop gardens. Many people have never seen such fruit farming or hop growing.” Nicola Boarer, Owner English Wine Tasting Tours
Over all the future for English wine is looking rosy and brings with it many developments in agriculture, tourism, education, investment and employment.
About English Wine Tasting Tours:
English Wine Tasting Tours was founded by Nicola Boarer and Justin Lay. Before starting English Wine Tasting Tours Nicola use to work for the BBC Good Food Show and is a foodie through and through. Ironically Justin is American but knows more about English Wine than most Brits. They live in Battle, East Sussex in the heart of England’s blossoming wine region and run wine tours direct from London and across the South East. They offer individual tickets to join a main group on set dates throughout the year, and also offer private tours for both large and small groups.
English Wine Tasting & Tours has won awards for the Beautiful South Best Guided Tour, Green Tourism, TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, and the Luxury Travel Guide.