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English sparkling winemaker Chapel Down said it was on track to double the size of its business by 2026, thanks in part to global warming, which has created better conditions for UK wine growers.
“The bittersweet part of climate change is that we now have a maritime climate that allows us to grow wine grapes,” said Andrew Carter, Chapel Down’s chief executive.
The winemaker is expecting a record harvest this year following the warm spring and late summer, which make for ideal conditions for both the yield and quality of wine grapes. The warmer climate “underpins the forecast to double the size of our business from 2021 to 2026”, Carter said.
Chapel Down, which is England’s biggest winemaker, said on Wednesday that sales revenues rose 21 per cent to £8.4mn in the first half of the year, while operating profit grew 27 per cent to £685,000, driven by growing brand awareness.
Sparkling wine sales, which make up 70 per cent of the business, surged 45 per cent compared to the same period last year.
Wine producers in the UK have benefited from longer, warmer growing seasons. 2023 was the UK’s eighth warmest summer on record, according to the Met Office, with average temperature for the season of 15.4°C, about 0.8°C warmer than average.
A study last year by the University of East Anglia said viticulture in the UK had expanded nearly 400 per cent from 761 to 3800 hectares between 2004 and 2021. Its climate modelling found that significant areas of England and Wales were projected to warm to up to 1.4°C during the growing season by 2040.
Chapel Down said its 2023 vintage was expected to be of “exceptional quality” with a record-breaking volume and yield. Last year’s harvest was already strong at 2,050 tonnes. The company’s record harvest was in 2018, with 2,173 tonnes.
Most vineyards in the UK were in the south-east of England, Carter said, but more were emerging in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and even in Yorkshire as warmer weather spreads further north. Chapel Down currently owns 9 per cent of UK’s vineyards, and is looking to expand.
The company said that high-profile sponsorships of events such as Ascot races, musical festivals Pub in the Park, and its partnership with the England and Wales Cricket Board, had boosted brand awareness.
The company is focused on the domestic market, with 95 per cent of revenues generated in the UK, but said it had boosted export revenues 90 per cent following the launch into Duty Free with listings at London Heathrow and London Gatwick.