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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 August, 2003, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
'Bumper year' for English wine
Camel Valley Vineyard
Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall could be in for a good year
This year's hot weather should lead to a bumper grape crop, English vineyard owners have said.

This could mean the finest wine the country has ever produced arriving on supermarket shelves and dinner tables in the middle of next year.

Many in the wine industry said the 2002 grape harvest had been the finest for a decade, boosted by a good spring and a warm, dry late summer and early autumn.

But this year's dry, sunny run could make 2003 an English vintage to look back on with pride, wine-growers say.

Will Davenport, owner of the Davenport Vineyards in Kent and east Sussex, said: "The weather we have enjoyed this summer has been absolutely perfect for our grapes.

Last year was an excellent year, 2001 was good as well, but it's looking very, very good again this year
Tom Hayward, of Sharpham Vineyard in Devon
"They are a Mediterranean crop and we have been enjoying Mediterranean weather so we couldn't ask for any more.

"It doesn't mean we will get a bigger crop - that is decided by the number of canes planted last year - but it is the quality of the grape, how quickly it matures and its sugar content that will be helped."

Mr Davenport said the dry weather has helped to ensure the grapes have not become swollen with rain.

This can dilute the sugar and acidity, and make them susceptible to disease.

'Wait and see'

Tom Hayward, of Sharpham Vineyard in Devon, said: "Last year was an excellent year, 2001 was good as well, but it's looking very, very good again this year."

However, he warned: "We have to wait and see because the weather could change quickly."

Tom Jinks, of the Biddenden Vineyards in Kent, compared the 2003 summer's climate to 1988, one of the hottest and longest summers in English history.

"I don't think we will be getting as much sunshine as that year, but growers are excited at the run we've been having," he said.

POTTED HISTORY OF ENGLISH AND WELSH WINE
The Romans brought the vine and wine to Britain
Many vineyards in Middle Ages, but decline set in later
Renaissance after World War 2
Now nearly 400 vineyards in England and Wales
English or Welsh wine is labelled just that. 'British wine' is made from imported grape juice concentrate
Source: English-wine.com
"It's the warmest for a long time and both the black and white grapes are benefiting enormously - this year will be as good if not better than last year."

But as Mr Jinks pointed out, the moment of truth comes when the wine is sampled.

"After the year we've had we're all looking forward to the best and most important part - testing in January before the bottling in June," he said.

There are about 400 vineyards in England and Wales, with about 1,000 hectares under vine.

Most are in the south-east of England, and Kent in particular, with some in the south-west. A handful are in Wales.

Seyval blanc, Reichensteiner and Muller-Thurgau are the most widely planted grapes, followed by Bacchus, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.




SEE ALSO:
Go-ahead for vineyard winery
09 Jan 03  |  England
Wine makers appeal for tax help
26 Feb 03  |  England
Great grapes boost English wine
08 Oct 02  |  England


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