UK wine exports pour into overseas markets

With the UK now recognised as a premium wine-producing nation; figures released by WineGB have revealed that 2019 was yet another productive year for the English Wine industry.

It is estimated that 5.5 million bottles of English wine were sold last year, and international sales accounted for 10% of this. With 3.2 million bottles sold in 2018, and 8% being exported, this represents an increase of over 70% year-on-year. In terms of the actual number of bottles exported, this figure has more than doubled from 256,000 in 2018, to 550,000 in 2019.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) continues to support UK wine producers on filling glasses overseas, with English wine currently exported to 40 countries around the world. Although the US continues to be the primary export market for English wine, sales to Japan are on the rise. In 2019, English wine sales to Japan accounted for 6% of all exports, which is double the quantity of 2018.

Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart, said: “This is an exciting time for the English wine industry, as exports and e-commerce grow strongly, and higher production helps the sector recover from coronavirus.

“A self-confident English wine industry will be in pole position to take advantage of a future trade deal with Japan and capitalise on other agreements we will sign in the Asia-Pacific region, and across the world.’

Wineries across the UK are helping to fulfill Japanese demand, but the South East continues to dominate the English Wine industry with approximately 2147 hectares of vineyard in the region, accounting for 61.5% of the UK total.

Gusbourne Estate is an award-winning, Kent-based vintage wine producer which recently secured a deal with Japan Airways. The opportunity will see its sparkling wine sold in the airline’s first-class lounges and is set to increase Gusbourne Estate’s sales to Japan 6-fold. The winery currently exports to over 20 countries across Europe, North America and Asia with its top three markets being the US, Norway and Japan.

Duncan Brown, head of Export and Travel Retail at Gusbourne Estate said: “With Japan being the world’s third largest Champagne export market, it provides natural potential for our English Sparkling Wines.

“The Department for International Trade’s recent support in Japan has been very welcome and hopefully this engagement will continue to accelerate in the coming years.”

Balfour Hush Heath Estate is another Kent-based vineyard seeing a growing interest from Japan. The winery recently secured a £100,000 deal with a Japanese wine importer and distributor, 21 Community, which was one of 30 wine distributors in Japan contacted by DIT on behalf of Heath Estate. The vineyard currently exports to Norway, Finland, Germany, Spain, the US, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong.

Adam Williams, sales director at Balfour Hush Heath Estate said: “Our experience working with DIT in Japan was fantastic. They organised several meetings for us in Japan which allowed us to find a superb distributor for our wines.

“Seeing our wines in so many different countries is extremely exciting and although exporting currently represents a small part of our overall sales, they are growing significantly every year as the awareness and interest in English wines continues to grow.”

Although the coronavirus lockdown affected overall sales within the industry, online direct to customer sales has seen substantial growth.

WineGB chairman Simon Robinson said: “The premium quality position held by English and Welsh wines is continuing to drive export growth, a key part of the industry’s overall strategy.

“Japan is well known as a market where high quality is critical, so it comes as no surprise that Japanese consumers have taken to our wines.

“The support provided by DIT and other government departments to our winemakers is in turn an important part of the drive to increase exports to Japan and we look forward to increasing our trade with that key market.”

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