BTF: New vineyard planting

In the South East of England we now review all land which is being sold to see whether it might have potential for vineyard planting, such is the demand from buyers and also sellers who are savvy about land values. 

There seems to be no end to new vineyard planting in sight and it is estimated there is currently 8,648 acres of vineyards in the UK which has increased by over 24% in the last 12 months. Of the 700+ vineyards in the UK, around 540 are commercial and the number of hobby growers is also increasing.

Vineyards are currently producing predominantly sparkling wines with around 66% of output dedicated to sparkling, 24% Still White and 10% Red/Rose. In 2017 an additional one million vines were planted here in the UK and most of this was for sparkling wine production (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). Now might be a good time to ask the question if the market for English wine will support this level of planting, is it still worth it for new entrants and what effect will it have on price and quality of wine and land in the future? These are key questions you should be asking yourself if you are looking to make the significant investment into planting vines whether for your own wine production or supplying under contract.

While there are many factors which have influenced the level of growth in planting and interest for English wines, there are still many factors to consider before planting. These include:

υ The importance of choosing the right site which has the greatest impact on overall profitability. 

υ The upfront costs of planting, managing, harvesting and producing from a vineyard. 

υ The income which you could generate from vines vs other forms of farming/diversified activity. 

υ The style of wine that you will produce and the market share and growth potential for this. 

υ Other factors which can have a major influence on success such as branding, marketing, packaging, visitor offering vs the factors that you can’t control such as weather. 

There will be many people who see vines as a source of ‘liquid gold’ but for the inexperienced there is the danger that it could become ‘fool’s gold’.

It is really important therefore to take advice before you start looking for potential vineyard sites as many deals take place off market, such is the demand. You can use agents such as ourselves to help find prospective sites for you and to handle the purchase or long-term lease. If you are planning to plant on your existing land then give thought to issues such as the level of investment required upfront, the amount of specialist knowledge needed and your long-term ambitions for the site. If you are planning the next big vineyard with a visitor offering, will that be achievable within the local planning regime? There is much to think about so make sure you take expert, professional advice.

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