Essex and Suffolk 'prime' for wine!

9 November 2018, 09:29 | Updated: 9 November 2018, 09:32

vineyard grapes

Essex and Suffolk could soon rival the Champagne region of France for wine production, research has suggested.

Climate and viticulture experts from the University of East Anglia (UEA) have identified around 86,000 acres of British countryside that is prime land for vineyards.

They pinpointed areas with ideal soil, terrain and climate, matching those of the Champagne region in years past.

It comes as climate change drives warmer growing seasons in England and Wales.

Lead author Dr Alistair Nesbitt said: "Interestingly, some of the best areas that we found are where relatively few vineyards currently exist, such as in Essex and Suffolk - parts of the country that are drier, warmer and more stable year to year than some more established vineyard locations.

"The techniques we used enabled us to identify areas ripe for future vineyard investments, but they also showed that many existing vineyards are not that well located, so there is definitely room for improvement and we hope our model can help boost future productivity.

"Entering into viticulture and wine production in England and Wales isn't for the faint-hearted - the investment required is high and risks are significant.

"But, as climate change drives warmer growing season temperatures in England and Wales, this new viticulture suitability model allows, for the first time, an objective and informed rapid assessment of land at local, regional and national scales."

Professor Steve Dorling, from UEA's School of Environmental Sciences, said: "English and Welsh vineyards are booming, and their wine is winning international acclaim.

"This summer's heatwave has led to a record grape harvest and a vintage year for English and Welsh wine, prompting great interest in investment and land opportunities.

"But, despite a trend of warming grape-growing seasons, this season has been quite unusual in terms of weather.

"English and Welsh grape yields are generally quite low and variable by international standards, so we wanted to identify the best places to plant vineyards and improve the sector's resilience to the UK's often fickle weather."

The research, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, is published in the Journal of Land Use Science.