Can the UK be self-sufficient in wine?

Can the UK be self-sufficient in wine?

Paula’s Wines of the Week – 02 June 2021

Importing wine into the UK has become even more bureaucratic and costly since Brexit and one suggested solution is for UK citizens to drink UK wine and not wine made in any other country. But how feasible is this – can the UK wine industry supply all the wine that UK wine drinkers want to drink?

Well no – not now and not for any time in the foreseeable future is the simple answer. Any idea why? Well, here in the UK we drink approximately 1.7 billion bottles of wine a year and the total UK production of wine is just 0.015 billion bottles (2018 figures). Or to put it another way just 15 million bottles of wine are produced in the UK each year.

So there’s a shortfall. UK wine production is a hundred and thirteen times too small. So if UK drinkers only drank UK wine then supplies would last just a few days.

That’s the situation in 2021 but could it change in the future if the UK keeps on planting new vineyards?

The UK has been creating vineyards at an astounding rate over the last twenty years – the total area planted with grape vines has expanded threefold since the year 2000 to its present 7,000 acres. And there’s even more good news. A 2018 academic study concluded that there was a further 70,000 acres of land suitable for vineyards which would amount to over ten times the present land planted with grapes.

But does ten times as much land equal ten times as much wine? Well that’s probably being slightly over optimistic. WineGB, the industry body representing UK wine producers and growers, predicts a possible annual production of 40 million bottles of wine sometime in the next 20 years. Which would be a great achievement but still forty-times too little to meet even the current needs of UK wine drinkers.

So let’s concentrate on what UK wine production excels at – sparkling wine. With 80% of UK vine plantings being varieties suitable for sparkling wine production – namely Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Bacchus – could the UK be self-sufficient in sparkling wine?

Figures for 2018 show that 175.5 million bottles of sparkling wine were opened and consumed in the UK, with most of those being Italian prosecco (110 million bottles), champagne just 27 million bottles, Spanish cava at 25 million bottles and English sparkling coming in last at approximately 4 million bottles.

If all those potential 70,000 acres were planted and used to make sparkling wine then production could potentially reach 40 to 50 million bottles a year. Which still leaves a shortfall of three of four times the amount required. And that’s just at 2018 figures. Sparkling wine consumption is predicted to keep on rising.

What it comes down to is that the UK isn’t likely to be self-sufficient in wine anytime soon. Which will put the French winemakers at their ease who can carry on being the UK’s main supplier and filler-up of our wine glasses.

If you want to drink only UK wines then what wines should you drink?
Here are top-rated English wines

The Wine Society’s English White 2020
£8.50 The Wine Society – 5 Stars

The pineapple, melon and apple fruitiness and the whole mix is a delight.

Denbies Chalk Valley English White NV
£12 Morrisons – 4 Stars

Gooseberry and lime flavours

Bolney Bubbly Brut NV
£23.99 Virgin Wines – 3 Stars

Sherbet flavours that are also have a light apple edge and the wine is a nice sip.

Davenport Vineyards English Horsmonden Dry White 2018
£14.99 Davenport Vineyards – 3 Stars

White rose, lychee and lemon aromas and flavours.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference English Dry Rose 2018
£11 Sainsbury’s – 3 Stars

A lovely pale pink colour and a gentle taste.

The wine rating system uses a maximum of 5 stars:

5* outstanding – the top rating given by
4* very good wine
3* good wine but over priced
2* a disappointing wine
1* little to offer
0* avoid – pour down the drain

Visit for more wine reviews, wine explanations and newsletter

Tweet me a wine question @wineuncorkeduk or email

© Paula Goddard 2021