Record Harvest for UK Vineyards

British wine producers were able to harvest almost 10 tons of grapes per hectare on average in 2023 - 50% more than the previous record. Production of 20 to 22 million bottles is expected - nearly three times as many as were sold in 2022.

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Some rain, some heat. An extraordinary year in the United Kingdom. (Photo: WINE GB / Sam Bernacki / Amber Valley Vineyard)
Some rain, some heat. An extraordinary year in the United Kingdom. (Photo: WINE GB / Sam Bernacki / Amber Valley Vineyard)

The UK has achieved a record grape harvest this year. This success is partly due to minimal damage from late frosts. Additionally, the country experienced its warmest June since records began in 1884, followed by a relatively cool summer. The year also saw the sixth-wettest July on record, and a hot September, matching the heat record set in 2006. Contributing to this achievement was an increase in vine acreage across the country. The young industry has seen investment of around $600m in the last five years, with a growth in vineyards over that period of 74% to a total of 4,300ha. 

According to Wines of Great Britain, the harvest volume this year is 51% greater than the previous record, which was set in 2018.

Around 30,000 tons of grapes were harvested from 3,230ha. This indicates a potential production of about 20-22m bottles of still and sparkling wine. To put this in context, just 5.3m bottles were produced in 2017 and 12.2m in 2022. The 2023 production is very close to the 25m estimate for 2032 when vineyards are expected to cover 7,600ha (18,800 acres).

The average yield for the four main grape varieties was close to 10 tons per hectare, with the top quarter of vineyards even reaching an average yield of 15.6 tons per hectare.

In 2022, the UK wine industry sold 8m bottles - a fall of 1.3m compared to 2021, but 900,000 more than in 2020. In other words, if the 2023 harvest does yield the maximum estimate of 22m, British winemakers will have produced just 2.4m bottles more than they were able to sell across three years. It will be interesting to see the sales figures for last year.

Insights Wine

The UK is on track to be a surprisingly high-volume wine producing region. But sales have slowed, raising questions over future industry strategy. Robert Joseph reports.

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