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Research unveils UK winemaking areas that could rival Champagne

Published:  09 November, 2018

New research has unveiled winemaking areas in the UK that could rival Champagne – and they’re not necessarily what you might expect.

The research team, from the University of East Anglia, used new geographical analysis techniques to identity nearly 35,000 hectares of prime viticultural land for new and expanding vineyards, much of it in Kent, Sussex and East Anglia.

But some of the best areas are where “relatively few vineyards currently exist such as in Essex and Suffolk - parts of the country that are drier, warmer and more stable year-to-year than some more established vineyard locations,” said lead author Dr Alistair Nesbitt.

He added: “The techniques we used enabled us to identify areas ripe for future vineyard investments, but they also showed that many existing vineyards are not that well located, so there is definitely room for improvement.”

Assessing weather and the effects of climate change played a major role in this “new viticulture suitability model”.

The summer’s heatwave, which led to a record grape harvest and a vintage year, has prompted interest in investment and land opportunities, the report said.

But while climate change is offering warmer grape-growing seasons, it is also making the seasons more unpredictable.

“English and Welsh grape yields are generally quite low and variable by international standards, so we wanted to identify the best places to plant vineyards and improve the sector’s resilience to the UK’s often fickle weather.

“Entering into viticulture and wine production in England and Wales isn’t for the faint hearted. The investment required is high and risks are significant.”