Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 18:00 UK

Vineyards welcome funding boost

Grapes
Winemakers in the South East are hoping for a vintage year

Vineyards in the South East are hoping a government and EU grant for wine-making courses will enable English wine to stay competitive.

Up to £1.6m in subsidies is being provided to encourage home-grown experts with the necessary skills.

Plumpton Agricultural College, in East Sussex, said it would develop the talent of those already in the business as well as those new to it.

Chris Foss, head of wine, said it would help "maintain the English reputation".

The money was a direct result of the winding down over the next five years of Common Agricultural Funding for the wine sector, he said.

"In order to sweeten the pill, the European Union have directed the funding which they would have expected to spend over the last five years to each member country.

We're not producing enough of those high quality graduates who want to stay in the industry
Frazer Thompson, English Wines Group

"Some of it has gone into a training pot which is managed by Defra, and was matched by Defra."

Winemakers in the South East are hoping for a vintage year, with one vineyard in Kent hoping to plant at least another 200 acres in the next three years.

Frazer Thompson, managing director of English Wines Group, which owns the award-winning Chapel Down label in Tenterden, said his company's plan was dependent on suitable staff.

"What we need are the scientists and those people that are going to help build new vineyards and new wineries.

"At the moment all our talent we have to import - we're not producing enough of those high quality graduates who want to stay in this side of the industry," he said.

"If we get this right it's a great investment in talent.

"The English wine industry will net something like £30m to the Treasury so this is a relatively small investment but it should be good news."

Grapes

Chris Foss, of Plumpton College, explains where the 1.6m in subsidies has come from



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