England and Wales on target to make 10 million bottles of wine

An estimated 10 million bottles of English and Welsh wine will be produced this year, according to new data from English wine consultant Stephen Skelton MW.

UK wineries won’t be able to produce as many bottles this year, compared to 2018’s record harvest. (Photo: Gusbourne)

Production figures are down from the record 15.6 million bottles made in 2018, but well above the 5.9 million bottles produced during the frost-hit harvest of 2017.

Skelton told the db that yields in England and Wales were above average, considering this year’s vintage was hit by wet weather during harvest season, which could have damaged the fruit.

“The 2019 vintage started with such great promise with excellent flowering, three days over 30C in June, July and August (which I think is a first), but then August was wet and warm, and September and October just wet,” Skelton said.

“Yields were average-plus, so I would estimate somewhere around 10 million bottles overall, maybe more given the extra acreage coming on stream,” he said.

Trade organisation WineGB said the damp autumn weather saw disease affecting some vineyards in the more marginal regions of the UK, but that commercial vineyards further South, East and West had reported both impressive quality and quantity suggesting an above average national yield.

“The 2019 harvest certainly proved to be more of a challenge compared to 2018, given the weather we experienced during the last week of September and throughout most of October,” said Charlie Holland, head winemaker at Gusbourne estate in Kent.

“In harvest conditions such as this, it is crucial to assess fruit in the vineyard before picking to ensure what comes into the winery is in good condition,” he said.

Despite the challenging weather this autumn, Gusbourne wine estate reported what it said was a vintage both “high in quality and quantity.”

“Desired levels of natural sugar and acidity were present across all three of the varieties that we grow – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier,” it said in its vintage 2019 statement.

“Despite less favourable weather conditions towards the end of the year, we have been able to pick a healthy and ripe crop” it said.

It said conditions throughout the growing season were generally good, in particular during flowering in June and the critical ripening months of July and August.

Skelton said that the 2019 vintage would, overall, not produce as high standard of wines made during the 2018, 2014 and 2009 vintages.

“Picking was a bit of a nightmare for some, with a lot of mud and ruts about. For those that had done their spraying and canopy management properly, the fruit was clean and in good condition,” Skelton said.

“Organic and biodynamic growers I am sure will have had to pick selectively as there was both rot and late-season downy about,” he said.

“As you would expect in a wet ripening period, both sugars and acids were slightly diluted and whilst I am sure there will be good wines made, they perhaps will not be of the very high standards of years like 2009, 2014 and 2018,” he said.

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