After a below average harvest last year, some favourable results in blind tastings and a frost – all of which received sizeable column inches in the national press – it came as no surprise yesterday’s English Wine Producers Tasting was rammed.
'We’ve actually started to run out of some of the wines,' marketing director, Julia Trustram Eve, told Imbibe. 'It brings a whole new meaning to scarcity value,' she added.
Joking aside, English wine is gaining in popularity and interest is at an all-time high. Production is still relatively small, last year the total was the equivalent of 4.15m bottles and the recent average has been around the 5m mark.
Tight-lipped on volumes, because they are 'changing daily', Trustram Eve did have this to say: ‘It is still small volume compared to others. The consumer wants to know more and they are asking for it, and they are buying it.
'We are getting an amazing group of hero brands, emerging brands and those who haven’t emerged yet. There is a lot support and excitement about what this is all about. Defining our general brand is going to be critical for us.'
Something else that is critical is pricing. 'We need to be really careful with prices,' Trustram Eve said. 'We are not in the industry that needs to get into a price war. We’re a high quality product, produced in relatively small volumes and deserve to be sold at a premium.'
She makes the comparison with champagne and premium Burgundy, 'English wine deserves that recognition as well'.
'We are not going to be a £3.99er or BOGOF. We are quality and we are premium. Prosecco has done an amazing job in making sparkling wines more approachable and we need to look at where we sit in all that.'
The recent frost, which has affected some English vineyards more than others, was on everyone’s lips at the tasting and the impact it might have on pricing.
'I would really hope [the frost] won’t have an impact on the price,' she said.
'It is too early to say. With us, in terms of sparkling, we have had a good run for three years. There are cellars with reserves. We already have the scarcity value. We are not really going to know until flowering. It is too early to tell but we are not going to suddenly see a dearth.'
If prices were to skyrocket then that could seriously hamper English wine's performance in the UK on-trade. The Running Horse Mayfair owner, Dom Jacobs, said his pub has typically struggled to move large quantities in the past.
'A price rise will make a big difference to us and our customers. We have a way to go to convince the UK that their home-grown produce is up to the same standard as elsewhere as well as being consistent.
'One of the issues with English sparking in the past is that across the board there have been ups and downs in quality as well as less consistency among vintages where champagne, for example, has strict regulation and huge reserves to ensure you get the same product year after year and there is a base standard. Italian sparkling suffers the same issues, however the cost is much more acceptable for people to take that risk.'