England and Wales produce some five million bottles of wine a year, and production is set to double in volume by 2020.
Sparkling wine currently represents 66% of production.
The most popular grape varieties grown are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which account for nearly 50%.
There are just over 500 commercial vineyards in the UK. The most northerly is Yorkshire Heart Vineyard, near York.
THE latest jaunt for Poppy and me takes us to the Kent and Sussex border, an area associated with hop bines rather than grapevines, and brewing beer, not growing grapes for wine.
However, the planting of vineyards on these sunny slopes is literally a growing trend. There are now dozens of growers and wine producers.
We’ve come to a groundbreakingg vineyardy in Sedlescombe, near Hastings. This husbandand-wife-established vineyard is producing not only organic but also biodynamic wines.
You don’t have to be a wine buff to enjoy a visit to Sedlescombe Vineyard. Families appear as we arrive, grappling with coats. It’s late September and the harvest is nearly upon us.
“We love coming here,” one mum says. “The kids can run through the rows of grapevines while we sample some wares at a winetasting and learn about grape growing.”
Luckily, the vineyard is a dog-friendly as well as child-friendly place.
Vineyard founder Roy Strong, a man of mature vintage, tells the story of his vineyard.
“The idea to plant vines in our field at Sedlescombe began in the days of ‘The Good Life’ and our attempt to be self-sufficient.”
Back in the 1970s, just like fictional TV couple Tom and Barbara Good, Roy was growing organic vegetables on his own garden plot.
He decided to branch out and bought a grapevine for his small polytunnel. He learned about viticulture from a little booklet called simply “Growing Vines Outdoors In England”.
“I learned there were already vineyards in England and that the site we owned had the right characteristics: south facing; correct soil type; appropriate height above sea level to suit vines.
“We had some chestnut woodland, ideal for vineyard posts, and rolls of galvanized wire left in an old shed by the last owner.”
In those days Roy had no funds to buy vines, so he helped prune some at a vineyard nearby. He gathered up the prunings and took them home – at the time a caravan parked on his land.
Just some of the wares, and a chance to try before you buy!