Helping its customers make the most of English Wine Week, which took place from 26 May till 3 June, UK drinks supplier Bibendum Wine bolstered its growing portfolio of English wines with the addition of the Greyfriars and Litmus ranges.

With the company’s sales of English sparkling wine reported to have grown 139% between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, Jamie Avenell, buyer for England at Bibendum, said that the increased range has been driven by demand.

“It’s a terrifically exciting category which is still in its sales infancy,” said Jamie Avenell. “English wine should be a must-have for any discerning wine list and with the range of styles evolving there is plenty of scope for offering customers a full range. The headroom for growth is immense and quite simply if the category continues to grow for us in the way that it has done, we were not going to have enough wine from existing producers to quench the thirst of this demand.”

Seeking to work with producers exclusively over a long period of time, Greyfriars was carefully selected by Jamie who has been impressed with what the estate has achieved in a very short space of time, as well as its ability to offer exceptional value for money.

“I’ve watched Greyfriars from afar for a while,” said Jamie. “Mike and Hilary Wagstaff took over a half-acre planting in 2010 and in only 8 years they have expanded the vineyards substantially, built a beautiful cellar dug in to the hill beneath the vineyard, and most importantly produced some brilliant wines. Many of their wines incorporate some oak use, whether through fermentation or ageing, and this gives their wines added complexity and texture that helps set them apart and give them added character.”

Still wine currently accounts for around 23% of the supplier’s English wine sales and Jamie is “always looking for fantastic English still wines to meet this demand”, but he believes that having enough top-quality English still wine to satisfy customers’ needs is a challenge.

“For me, English still wine is a really difficult category, with a very small number of wines that in an international context you would say are brilliant wines,” said Jamie. “We chose to add the Litmus wines to the portfolio because they are brilliant in any context, with great modern packaging. They are also wines which offer a style that is textured and food friendly; that is elevated from the simpler fruit forward wine that is the English still wine norm.”

The new additions join an already existing portfolio of producers including Chapel Down, Bolney Wine Estate, Coates & Seely, Nyetimber and Ridgeview.

“There are clear signs of organic growth,” said Joseph Arthur, fine wine business development executive at Bibendum. “After years of hard work from producers at cellar door and in the trade, we now have customers asking for English wine, where previously it was all about getting the word out to them. This is a very significant change. We are very much looking forward to supporting our customers with the introduction of new UK producers as the category continues to grow.”