British vineyards could enjoy a better grape harvest than French rivals this year thanks to our corking weather – and their crops being wiped out by HAILSTORMS.
UK growers are enjoying constant sunshine and “perfect” conditions while some of France’s most famed regions have been pummelled by 60mph winds and hail the size of golf balls.
The battering has destroyed up to 80 per cent of some Pinot noir and Chardonnay crops in Burgundy and led the prestigious Pommard Winemakers’ Association to declare the season “a catastrophe”.
But France’s misery could be good news for Britain’s booming wine industry which is due to export a record number of bottles this year thanks to the balmy start to the summer.
Vineyard owner Simon Day said English wine used to be considered a joke by continental rivals but is now good enough to seize a share of the global market.
He said: “English wine used to be a bit of a joke. The French, Italian and Spaniards – the stereotypical wine-growing countries – would say, ‘the English can’t make wine’.
“The French are intensely proud of what they produce themselves. Of course 99.99 per cent of what is drunk in Burgundy is made in Burgundy. But when they try our wine out now they’re pleasantly surprised.
“Some of the pictures I’ve seen of the devastation in Burgundy and France have been absolutely horrific. Storms can be quite localised and some vines have been completely stripped bare.
“Obviously storms and strong winds are something English winegrowers are aware of too but it’s just been the right weather at the right time for our wine.
“The Wimbledon fortnight is usually the vital flowering time and the weather has been great last year and this year too.
“It’s been perfect weather – sunny, warm and light, breezy winds. It’s not all done and dusted yet though, but everything looks very promising.”
Mr Day who used to work on vineyards in France but now runs 16 Ridges Vineyard in Ledbury, Herefordshire, where he hopes to produce 60,000 bottles from this summer’s crop.
He added: “The demand for English wine has been outstripping supply for the last 10 years.
“You never see English wine on the shelves but that’s because it’s already sold. It’s sold at the vineyard’s gates, or in local pubs and restaurants, so that’s why you don’t see it.
“A lot of English vineyards are exporting their crop. We’ve seen English wine bought in Scandinavia, the Americas, China, Japan, Russia, you name it.
“English sparkling is most often compared to Champagne. It’s similar in style but some say better.
“That’s because Champagne is struggling with over-ripening thanks to global warming while England’s climate is perfect.”
UK winemaker Sam Lindo will compete this summer against France’s top champagne producers for the title of international sparkling winemaker of the year after becoming the first Brit to reach the final three.
Sam, who owns Camel Valley Vineyard near Bodmin, Cornwall, said: “We’ve had a brilliant year for our wine.
“If the sun shines, everything flowers and there’s no particularly bad weather between now and October, then we could make up to 200,000 bottles.
“On a bad year we can make 50,000. In England we accept that we have bad years from time to time but in Burgundy they’ll not be used to having such a bad season.
“Everyone makes different wine from different places. We make a different kind of wine so we can’t say we are better than Burgundy.
“But if you want sparkling or white wine from English grapes then come to us – I definitely prefer our wine to French.”