The UK wine industry is going from strength to strength, with one million vines planted in 2017 and one million planned for this year.
Chris Cooper, a specialist agronomist for the distributor Hutchinsons is also retained by the industry body Wine of Great Britain (Wine GB) to provide technical support and is well aware of what it takes to grow a successful crop under UK conditions.
“Top class agronomy is vital to get the best from the crop and, with many new entrants likely in the future; there is a greater need to offer a professional helping hand throughout the season. The UK industry is said to continue to expand and to grow by 50% by 2020. UK growers are taking accolades and prizes with regularity. Hopefully more UK produced wines will be selected for the Christmas season.”
Chris explained that this agronomy advice goes back well before the crop is planted. “Planting systems and variety selection are important for the wine to be produced and in the UK the top varieties we grow are Chardonnay (23% of area planted), Pinot Noir (22% of area planted) and Bacchus (8%).
“Bacchus is grown almost exclusively in the UK as it suits our growing conditions particularly well. Just as in New Zealand where the Sauvignon Blanc grape transformed the New Zealand wine industry, so Bacchus could do the same for the UK. Another grape variety that has hit the headlines this year is Albariño. This variety is usually associated with the wet climate of north west Spain in Galicia. But this year a Chapel Down Albariño wine made from grapes grown in 2014 in Sandhurst, Kent outperformed those of Galicia in a blind wine tasting in Madrid.”
Each month growers need to focus on different aspects of agronomy – pruning in the winter, disease control, pest control, weed control and nutrition in the spring and summer and harvesting and wine making in the autumn.
Chris Cooper said: “Each season requires expert advice on agronomy. Keeping up with registrations in vines is challenging enough and I get involved in submitting applications for Extension Of Authorisation For Minor Use (EAMU) for the industry which will allow more products to be used in cost-effective grape growing. With potentially many new entrants coming into wine growing, it is a lot more than just deciding to get involved and planting up. There are a lot of technical skills required to make sure that you make the best of what you have got”.