Burgundy, Chianti and the Napa Valley now have a surprising rival – the green, undulating hills of England and Wales. Not content with being the fifth-largest wine-consuming market in the world, the British are becoming prodigious producers, with a growing number of vineyards making a total of 9 million highly quaffable bottles a year – and gaining accolades from connoisseurs around the globe.
“These are exciting times for British vineyards,” says Chris Spofforth, director of farms at Savills, who is based in Sevenoaks, Kent. “Viticulture is our fastest-growing agricultural sector and the UK is a good place to be buying or growing a vineyard.” Spring is the perfect season to start your search.
A handful of UK vineyards were recorded in 2000, but that figure has now grown to about 800, according to the trade body WineGB. You’ll find areas under vines from Sussex to Cornwall, Wales to Yorkshire. At least 500 are commercial, with the rest being hobby-led, and while viticulture is still “a bit niche”, as Spofforth puts it, the industry is flourishing, spurred on by values-driven investors and market confidence.
“Serious money is being invested in British wine and good growing sites are highly sought-after,” says Spofforth – and it’s easier to buy a vineyard in the UK than in overheated Bordeaux. “Here, you’re paying a premium over agricultural value and it’s a lot easier than buying in France.”