Ben Raby, Department for International Trade (DIT) head of Exports in the South East, outlines the growing demand overseas for wine produced in his region. 

It is no secret that the South East of England is renowned for its wine-worthy grapes and it’s not just Brits enjoying the harvest as we near the summer months, but wine lovers abroad too.

The South East is home to three quarters of the UK’s wine producers. A combination of ideal climate and growing expertise in vinification is creating a recipe for success, the potential to compete with some of the world’s finest wine producing dynasties.

Our region is home to the UK’s most iconic vineyards; in Kent, Hush Heath Winery and Chapel Down, East Sussex’s Ridgeview, Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey and Hampshire’s Exton Park Vineyard and Jenkyn Place to name a few. Their success is not just down to being popular in the UK, but because they have established themselves with wine lovers overseas too.

Thanks to the success of these brands, the South East of England is now firmly on the world’s wine map, which means the door is open for other producers to take their wines around the world.  

Going global

The good news is that the opportunity is growing, with 8% of wine produced in 2018 going overseas, up 3% on the previous year. In fact, Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) predicts UK wine exports will reach £350 million by 2040, with strongest demand coming from the USA. Added to this, in 2016 the UK Government pledged that exports of wine will increase tenfold, growing to 2.5 million bottles by next year to respond to the growing volume of wine producers in the UK.

As with any industry, exporting alcoholic drinks brings with it its own unique set of challenges, but these can be overcome with support from the Department for International Trade (DIT).

The most frequent hurdles that wineries come up against when dealing with new markets relate to differing legislation and regulations around the import and sale of alcohol. For example, wine exported to Dubai must be done through authorised importers only, of which there are few. As wine is considered an agricultural food product, it must also be approved by the Food Control Section of the Public Health Department of the Dubai Municipality before it can pass the border. DIT can support producers in meeting these requirements, as well as identifying suitable in-market trading partners that will be able to import their wine. 

For wine bound for the USA, it is important to ensure that all federal and state laws are complied with – and that’s something DIT can help with too. For example, all labels must also give indication of product quantity in both metric and US customary units – measures like our imperial units.

Producers also need to comply with UK excise duty rules on selling alcohol to countries overseas.

Success story

DIT’s experience in the food and drink sector means we can provide bespoke market research for producers looking at new territories. This includes identifying possible distribution and retail partners, as well as providing competitor analysis and flagging any potential regulatory issues.

We have a support network that stretches across the world, providing UK producers with access to key contacts in their chosen markets, and supporting them on market visits with introductions and local knowledge. 

Hampshire sparkling wine producer, Exton Park Vineyard currently attributes 30% of its annual sales to overseas markets including the USA, Canada, Norway, Sweden and Italy. Most recently, the business secured a contract to export to Sweden for the first time. DIT offered invaluable guidance and support to identify partners for this market when the management team was seeking a suitable distributor to work with.

We’d encourage wineries, vineyards and any other producers to contact us to discuss how we can help start or grow their exporting activity. DIT is here to support them in diversifying their customer base and income streams, and help their businesses grow.

If the top South East producers can be the toast of markets overseas, others local wineries can too. 

DIT’s Exporting is GREAT campaign aims to help more businesses explore new markets overseas. The campaign is currently showcasing 30+ UK businesses – encompassing every sector and region – to inspire and support firms up and down the country to export. Companies can find information and a current list of opportunities by visiting or contacting DIT South East.