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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 May, 2004, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Vineyards seeking 'wine tourists'
English wine makers are encouraging vineyard tourism
Thousands of wine lovers are expected to visit the growing number of English vineyards this weekend.

Scores of new businesses have sprung up - especially in Kent and Sussex which now enjoy drier and hotter summers.

English Wine Week, which begins on Saturday, is set to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UK's first commercial wine harvest.

Wine makers are offering tours, tastings and days out to attract tourists to their vineyards.

Climate change

A spokesman for English Wine Producers, which represents wine makers across the country, said: "Interest in English wine has grown dramatically over the last few years.

"Last year's summer and subsequent quality harvest also raised England's profile as a serious wine producer.

"England is now acknowledged as the home to some outstanding sparkling wines."

This year, three French champagne houses said they were considering exporting production to Kent.

Climate change and the chalk geology of the Kent and Sussex hill prompted the move, along with high land prices in Champagne.

Wine makers in England said a change in temperature meant conditions in Kent and Sussex were now more favourable to produce the grapes used for Champagne.

There are about 350 vineyards in the UK - out of those, Kent has 31, West Sussex has 23, and Surrey and East Sussex both have eight.

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