400 pages of EU laws (mostly French-created) were crushed on New Year’s Day

Graham Charles Lear
6 min readJan 4, 2024

On New Year’s Eve Environment Secretary Steve Barclay welcomed the scrapping of outdated EU rules in respect of the UK’s wine sector, inherited from Brussels over decades. The reforms made possible by Brexit will uncork innovation, encourage sustainable practices, and reduce burdens for businesses.

In addition to the UK’s long-standing status as a global wine trading hub, with a wine market worth over £11 billion in 2022, England and Wales have a fast-growing wine-making industry.

The booming wine sector in England and Wales

  • On-trade and off-trade sales were worth £11.1 billion in 2022
  • There are now 943 vineyards spread across Great Britain, accounting for 3,928 hectares of UK vineyards
  • Hectares under vine in the UK have more than quadrupled since 2000
  • Cultivation and harvesting of grapes is now Britain’s fastest-growing agricultural sector
  • The sector employs around 2,300 people full-time
  • A further 8,300 are employed in part-time or seasonal work
  • 50% growth in jobs predicted by 2025
  • The industry produced 12.2 million bottles in 2022, which represents a 130% increase on the 5.3 million bottles produced in 2017. Sparkling wine accounts for 68% of production, a figure that has remained pretty consistent over the past five years.
  • It predicted that the total area under vine in Great Britain will increase to 7,600ha by 2032. It is also predicted production to hit 25 million to 29 million bottles per year by that point.#
  • Kent is a hotspot for wine production, as it accounts for 1,033ha under vine — 26% of the country’s total plantings.
  • West Sussex and East Sussex account for 570ha and 493ha respectively, while Hampshire’s total vineyard has increased to 380ha. Essex also has 325ha under vine.
  • Chardonnay is the most widely planted variety. It accounts for 31% of total plantings, followed by Pinot Noir (29%), Pinot Meunier (9%), Bacchus (8%) and Seyval (3%).

[Source: DEFRA and GBWine.]

Bumper harvest in 2023

The trade association for Great British vineyard and wine producers, Wine GB, reports that 2023 is Great Britain’s largest-ever grape harvest, expected to produce an estimated 20–22m bottles. This represents an increase of over 50% on Britain’s previous record year in 2018.

Putting the fizz into Brexit Britain

Benefiting from perfect growing conditions in the south of England, English sparkling wine has seen a surge in popularity in recent years with 8.3 million bottles produced in 2022.

From Monday (01 January 2024), makers of English sparkling wine no longer have to use mushroom-shaped stoppers and foil covers on bottlenecks, giving producers the choice to opt for simpler packaging to reduce both waste and costs.

In a move welcomed by wine traders, the government will also remove the requirement for imported wines to have an importer address on the label, reducing administrative burdens for businesses.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said:

“Our departure from the EU gives us the opportunity to review and scrap outdated and burdensome rules that have been holding back our wine sector.

“The reforms we’re introducing will help our wine producers and traders become more profitable, dynamic, and sustainable — while freeing them from pointless red tape.

“Looking ahead to 2024, I’m committed to this government continuing to support our world-class wine-makers, vineyards and traders to grow and innovate.”

Nicola Bates, CEO of WineGB, the trade association for Great British vineyard and wine producers, said:

“We welcome the additional choice that comes from this first phase of actions from the wine reform consultation. There will be producers who are keen to take advantage of all and every option to reduce materials on bottles, so we can expect to see fewer foils on sparkling allowing you to celebrate that bit faster, and with an environmental benefit.

“We look forward to working with Government and the Defra team on future consultations, and am sure they will be as constructive as those now being implemented.”

The EU’s 400-page rulebook for wine—crushed

The reforms that came into force Monday (01 Jan 2024) follow last year’s ‘Wine: reforms to retained EU law consultation’ on the EU’s overly complex and bureaucratic 400-page rulebook for wine. The changes aim to facilitate international trade and foster domestic innovation and growth.

The UK wine market was worth over £11 billion in 2022 in off-trade and on-trade sales, and the UK’s developing domestic production sector has attracted significant global investment.

The UK is a global hub for wine. It is home to a diverse and dynamic wine sector and is the second-largest importer of wine in the world by value. In 2022, off-trade sales of still, sparkling, and fortified wine via supermarkets, convenience stores, and specialist off-licences in the UK were worth around £7.6 billion, while on-trade sales through hospitality outlets were worth an estimated £3.5 billion.

The domestic wine-making sector in England and Wales might still be relatively small, but it is rapidly growing and developing a global reputation for quality. Production reports for 2022 show a 36% increase in production and there has been a 74% growth in hectarage of vines in just five years, between 2017 and 2022 (from 2,257ha to 3,928 ha).

A short walk down from the commuter-filled Dorking station in Surrey is a 265-acre vineyard.

Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking is one of England’s largest single-estate vineyards. With 265 acres currently under vine, it has a production capacity of 1 million bottles. The first vines were planted on the estate in 1986.

For the last 20 years, Christopher White, CEO, has owned and operated the estate. Under his leadership, Denbies has become one of the largest and most successful wineries in England.

Greyfriars, Surrey

The team at Greyfriars combine traditional techniques with modern wine-making technology to create crisp bubbles which have won numerous international accolades. Owners Mike and Hilary Wagstaff bought the site on the Surrey North Downs eight years ago, planting over 70,000 vines across an expanse of 50 acres. During their most recent harvest, they reaped over 100 tonnes of grapes, producing close to 80,000 bottles of crisp sparkling wine.

Castle Brook, Herefordshire

Tucked in the Wye Valley, the Castle Brook vines were planted in 2004 on the site of an ancient Roman vineyard. They provide an ancient yet modern diversification strategy for this fourth-generation family farm. Specialising in Brut and Rosé sparkling wine, the team use traditional Champagne varieties and methods. Available for next-day delivery, this Herefordshire-based wine is certainly the answer if you’re craving a fabulously British glass of bubbly. Each bottle bears the ‘Chinn-Chinn’ motif, a play on the Chinn family name, which had destined them for success in the winemaking business.

These are just three of our very successful vineyards producing very good wine that now benefit from the 400 pages of EU laws now thrown on fire that benefited the EU wine growers like France, Italy Spain Germany.

Sources: DEFRA | GBWine ]

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Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.