While the UK is known as one of the world’s major wine consumers, it only produces a tiny amount of wine of its own, with Welsh and English wine sales together accounting for only 1% of the UK’s domestic wine market.
Perhaps the greatest problem facing the UK as a wine producing nation is its cold climate which restricts the varieties of grapes which can be successfully grown. However, over the last few summers, the climate has been warmer, and this has led to a small increase in production. Sparkling wines are now also emerging from the UK market.
In England, the chalky soils of Kent and Sussex have proven to be an ideal location for growing the grapes which are used in the production of sparkling wines, and the climate on the south facing slopes of southern England are sufficiently warm. There are over 400 vineyards across England, with the biggest being located in Surrey - Denbies – with 1.07 kilometres squared of vines. Kent’s Chapen Down Wines is also a large producer with the largest English winery. Wines are even produced as far north as Yorkshire.
In Wales there has been a longer history of vine growing, with the Romans having planted early vineyards, however it was not until the 1970s that any modern vineyards were planted here. South Wales was the focus of Welsh wine production, and by 2015 there were 22 vineyards that produced 100,000 bottles per year. While most of these were white, there were also some reds.
In Scotland, the climate has long been thought to be too cold and wet to facilitate wine production, however grape vines can grow as far north as Shetland, albeit in a polytunnel. These grapes are not used for making wine, however, and are primarily used to make grape jelly.