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2015 year in review and hopes and fears for 2016: Julia Trustram Eve, English Wine Producers

Published:  21 December, 2015

In the first of our annual reviews of the year, we asked Julia Trustram Eve, the marketing director for English Wine Producers, what were some highlights of 2015 and what she thinks lies ahead for the industry. For Trustman Eve, 2015 was a busy year where English wines became increasingly more mainstream.  Looking ahead she see the Budget as one of the industries biggest challenges in 2016, but a lot of opportunity as well with the International Cool Climate Symposium being hosted in the UK.

How was 2015 for you and your business?

Very busy - which seems to be the case year in and year out now!  

Happily, the full on day to day work has been made more manageable by our recently-appointed marketing assistant Charlotte, who has really helped with developing the digital side of our business overseeing the news, website and social media aspect of the job.

Press interest and coverage on English wines was higher than ever this year made possible by reaching out through all channels.

Clearly it has been a busy year of business for our producers. The recent Waitrose announcement of record-breaking sales of English wine in the last year, and Nielsen's report that English sparkling wine is fourth on the sparkling wine performance leader board for increase in sales over the last 12 months definitely supports how busy trading has been for the category.

For the first time this year some of our sparkling wine producers went in to battle on the cricket pitch against the Champagne boys.  Unfortunately, we lost, but there will be a return match next summer!  

Of course the icing on the cake was the recent announcement that Champagne Taittinger has bought land in Kent to set up their own sparkling wine operation - this has really put focus on what England offers by way of quality sparkling wine production.

What do you think were the most significant issues and trends that occurred in 2015?

Growth and development all round for the trade.

For our part, more producers were visible on the national and international show circuit. At ProWein this year we had more producers on the stand than ever before and at  London Wine Fair 2015 we enjoyed a busy and bigger presence. Many more producers took space at the many consumer fairs around the country - giving much more exposure to a far wider group of trade and consumers.  Our trade tasting in May was also the highest attended by both producers and trade/press visitors.

English Wine Week 2015 was undoubtedly our busiest and best supported yet - trade participants grew, as did the resulting media exposure.

What opportunities are you most looking forward to working on in 2016?

2016 is going to be a big year for us as an industry and for the individual producers.

Looking ahead on the 26th-28th of May, 2016 the UK is hosting the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium, taking place in Brighton. This international event happens every four years or so and it has put previous host regions on the map.  

The organisational team behind ICCWS 2016 includes some of the best creative minds of the UK wine industry and the wine trade at large. I like to think that we are going to bring to ICCWS what London brought to the Olympics - a touch of originality and flair, with a range of hot topics covered, making it a highly interesting and enjoyable and above all memorable event.  At the heart of it of course will be the UK wine industry, taking centre stage and showing the world just what it is all about.

We're also looking forward to our trade tasting on 9th May, 2016. We'll be bringing in some wine panel talks and debates on the side to add to the experience of attending and meeting producers. There will be plenty of topical issues up for discussion.

English Wine Week is hotting up to be another great generic activity that can bring the industry and the trade closer together through promotional partnerships - we're really looking forward to 2016 as an even busier campaign.

There are more great stories coming out of England so we are looking forward to helping with press visits from both UK-based and overseas press.

Wine tourism will also be brought in to more focus - there are so many opportunities in this arena.

All in all, 2016 is set to be a very busy year!

What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2016?

The Budget. Here's hoping that the rate of duty on wine will finally be reduced and perhaps consider bringing the rate of excise duty charged on sparkling in line with still.  No difference in alcohol and it seems a bit bizarre that we are charged more for bubbles in the wine.

Health and social responsibility in relation to alcohol will of course also remain a key issue. This is something we must all continue to collaborate on collectively.

Who are the people/companies/retailers to watch in 2016?

Lizz Truss - Secretary of State for DEFRA.  She is keen to further support the UK drinks industries, and if we do have her ear, we hope that we can achieve some real progress in support of our wine producers.  Additionally, with UKTI moving in to the DEFRA remit, we are looking forward to more developments in export.

As a buying group, Vindependents are ones to watch. This offers some real opportunities to smaller volume producers from England to get exposure to some leading independent retailers. Having said that, English wines are not being ignored by the high street retailers who are genuinely connecting with the industry and providing readily available access to English wines.

What are you doing for Christmas and New Year?

Hibernating - in between relishing the time with family and friends

What will be your favourite tipple over Christmas and New Year?

It will of course vary from one meal (and in between) to the next, but will include some sensational English gin and of course some English wine! I can highly recommend Warner Edwards Rhubarb gin, Fever Tree Tonic and a slice of orange. For starters, plenty of fizz and dessert wine with stilton- it's a winning combination.

What is your favourite Christmas film?

Muppet Christmas Carol - delivering a sombre message but with plenty of laughs, some zaneyness and a bit of cuteness too!

Also, although not a film as such -  The Fast Show Christmas Special from the 1990's is one we cry with laughter to.... Those who know it will know what I mean!

Ideal day out over Christmas period?

A really good pub lunch ... no rush, log fire, good food and drink and no cooking on my part - real treat!

What do you want most from Father Christmas?

More hours in the day!

New Year's resolution?

To find even more opportunities to get English wines on the agenda/menu/discussion

For starters, it would be great to get all British Embassies/High Commissions to serve English wine

To keep healthy through diet and exercise ... I love my job and need to retain those energy levels!