2020: A vintage year to cheer about?

Date 28.04.2021

Marketing Lecturer, Simon Wragg, who holds a Diploma from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, blogs about the small ray of light on the horizon for those of us who like a glass of wine. The quality of the 2020 grape harvest and wine production in England and Wales, which many domestic producers heralded as the best vintage yet.

“2020: A tragic year of loss, suffering, financial hardship, mental strain, and isolation as the Covid-19 pandemic swept the globe. Like most social norms, our drinking habits have dramatically changed during the pandemic. With people furloughed, working from home, home-schooling, and the unseasonably delightful weather of Spring 2020, people found themselves popping a bottle earlier and earlier in the day.

“For wine producers in the UK 2020 was something to cheer about. Despite the pandemic woes and the (it seems continually evolving) uncertainties of the new Brexit-trading arrangements on supply lines, issues, the 2020 grape harvest promises to bring a bit of sunshine to consumers, and something to raise a glass to.

“The domestic wine industry is one of the UK’s fastest-growing agricultural sectors and has been a success story in recent years, the latest figures indicated that an estimated 5.5 million bottles of English and Welsh wines were sold in 2019 (WineGB) and there are now over 3million hectares of vines planted with over 700 vineyards operating.

“These locally-produced wines are no minority interest, one in ten of all bottles sold are exported overseas and in terms of sparkling wine production they have been consistently achieving international acclaim and winning awards in blind tasting competitions around the globe, offering UK consumers a new dimension in their drinking options, alternative choices to the likes of Prosecco or Champagne being drunk around the table or in the beer garden, or inside a pub (when finally allowed to re-open).

“Many wineries reported exceptional quality from the grape harvests of 2020. Yes, there were frosts in spring following the early sunshine of March and April which accompanied Lockdown one (remember that!), the frosts of May then led to a significant reduction in crop amounts, but where quantity was lost, quality was gained.

“Late summer sunshine, especially a very warm September, a heatwave that led to early ripeness and concentration in the fruit arriving into the wineries, produced intense, flavourful grapes. This led many producers to use words such as “fantastic”, “incredible”, “best vintage yet”, the superlatives kept coming, in describing the quality of grapes and the resultant output of the 2020 vintage.

“And just as the bottles from the domestic 2020 vintage are beginning to hit our supermarket shelves, it comes at a time when many consumers are revisiting their shopping habits and approaches to buying local. The news that local wine production is of such stellar quality coincides with an emerging trend in behavioural change post-pandemic by UK consumers.

“A recent survey into post-pandemic consumer behaviours has shown that more of us are choosing to shop and buy local, and the same survey also showed that more than nine in 10 people who have shopped locally say they will continue to do so, a potential boost for the UK wine industry offering such high, quality locally produced offerings.

“Nearly two-thirds of consumers in the UK have chosen to buy closer to home in the past year, leading to a 63% rise in spending at specialist food and drink stores. Such behaviour and purchasing decisions may become permanent and the growth in the wine industry might prove it is well-positioned to benefit from such changes in consumer choice and shopping habits.

“At a time when consumers might be changing their habits post-Pandemic, when new trends are emerging in consumer behaviour and changed consumer choices, one of the things that a UK consumers might be thinking of buying is a bottle of something they might consider a little bit different, a little bit more local, perhaps the product of grapes grown from their very own local communities.

“So, as you contemplate stocking up over the May Bank Holiday, or as you think about what will accompany your rule of six garden get together with friends, think about drinking something local. There has probably never been a better time in terms of the quality of the wine produced in the UK.

“There are several vineyards in Northamptonshire including – Fleur Fields, New Lodge, and Stonyfield vineyards, and then there is Chafor in nearby Buckinghamshire. So, lots of great locally produced vino to enjoy!

“As far as 2020 is concerned, the wines from England and Wales might represent at least something good that came out of 2020!”