Warmer weather helps bubbly explode in the South West

May 18th, 2015

Warmer weather and longer seasons over the last fifteen years have helped to put English sparkling wines among the best in the world. The amount of land devoted to vineyards in England has doubled in the last seven years and wine production was up 43 per cent last year in 2014. In fact a record-breaking 6.3 million bottles of English sparkling and still wine was made last year, smashing 2013’s record of nearly 4.5 million, according to the Food Standards Agency.

Last year’s long, warm spring and summer not only delighted visitors to UK pet friendly cottages but also brought a big harvest of high-quality grapes which has benefitted the region’s winemakers of which the two largest are Sharpham Estate in South Devon and Camel Valley near Bodmin.

Duncan Schwab, of Sharpham Estate on the banks of the River Dart, said the estate had tripled production from 5,000 bottles of bubbly a year to about 15,000, and Sam Lindo, of Camel Valley Vineyard at Nanstallon, near Bodmin said sparkling wines accounted for 70 per cent of its 120,000 bottles a year.

”We have made the same amount of still wine for the past 10 years, but sparkling has doubled in that time,” he said. “We try to make the best wine we can, and the easiest to make to a world class standard is sparkling.”

He said the quality had improved since the turn of the millennium. “The good years are a lot more frequent than they used to be. In the 1950s and 1960s it was just too cold every year.

“We have never had three really good years in a row, but the last two have been really good.”

The conditions that produce a bumper harvest are a May with no frost, and warmer, drier weather in June and early July when flowers are setting.

Duncan Schwab at Sharpham said new vineyards had been planted in the past five years to increase production, grapes are also bought in from some of the new vineyards springing up.

“In the early days it was a struggle to ripen the fruit,” he said. “In the 1980s we had to deacidify the grapes, but we haven’t done that for the best part of 15 years.”

Sharpham sells about 80 per cent of its wine locally, through independent wine shops and farm shops like Riverford. It also sells through Waitrose, as does Camel Valley. Both also sell through their websites, sharpham.com and camelvalley.com and between them they have won a raft of international awards for their sparkling wines.