Vineyards hope heatwave will lead to bumper year

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Vineyards are hopeful that the heatwave over the UK will lead to a vintage year as the high temperatures create quality fruit and yields matching France’s Champagne region.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said 2018 was set to be a vintage year thanks to a wet spring followed by the heatwave that led to early flowering vines and generous bunches which were “shaping up to provide a bountiful harvest”.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “The last bumper year for English wine was back in 2014 when good weather created ideal growing conditions for our grapes, with vineyards across the UK producing the equivalent of 6.3 million bottles of English and Welsh wine that year.

Vineyards were hoping that 2018 would be “even better”, he said.

Viticultural consultant Stephen Skelton said: “Vines like the heat. It’s been the best year I’ve ever known.

“It’s going to be a very early vintage, which is always good for quality.

“As for volume, we normally crop about one third of Champagne (region). This year I would guess we would match their level.”

He added:  “This year is much more like a continental climate with low rain and solid sunshine since bud burst.

“Most people haven’t seen rain for a couple of months but I haven’t seen any vines suffering drought stress.”

Chapel Down vineyard in Kent, which is the UK’s largest producer of English sparkling wine, told The Drinks Business publication earlier this month that it had seen better conditions this year than ever before.

Chief executive Frazer Thompson said: “As an industry we rely very heavily on the good Lord, and we realise he is a pretty unreliable partner, but this is the best I’ve ever seen in 18 years.

“The flowering has been completely uninterrupted and early, and the bunches look regular and superb, and the forecast is also good.

“Every single vineyard that could go right has gone right – and often we get the right weather, but not in the right order, but this year we have had the right weather in the right order … ‘14 was the last vintage that was a bit like that and it produced staggering wines.”

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