There are currently more than 3,900 ha (hectares) of land planted with vines in Great Britain, that’s the equivalent of 7,300 football pitches!
According to Wine GB, sales of English and Welsh wine increased by almost 70% between 2020 and 2022, and the amount of land that grows vines increased by 74% in the five years before 2022.
While we’ve been growing vines in England since Roman times, the sector is now one of the fastest-growing parts of food and drink production and employs around 2,300 workers. This is expected to double by 2025, meaning many new job opportunities are available in all areas of growing grapes and winemaking.
New opportunity in wine
Most vineyards are in the South of England, and Kent has almost twice the amount of planted grape areas as any other county in England. However, you can find commercial vineyards as far north as Yorkshire and even Scotland.
The increasing temperatures driven by climate change and the right type of soils and land in England, particularly in Kent and the South Downs, means we now compete on quality and flavour with other wine-producing regions globally.
Almost two-thirds of the wine made in the UK is destined for sparkling wine. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most popular grape varieties currently grown in the South East of England. However, the varieties of grapes grown across the UK vary with the different local climates and soil types.
Agronomists, scientists, and plant breeders are helping to identify and develop new grape varieties best suited to growing in English climates, improving how resistant they are to pests and diseases, and importantly, looking for grape varieties that can ripen well in our cooler climate.
Careers in viticulture
There are two main career paths in the sector: viticulture is the growing and management of the grape crop, and oenology is producing and making wine.
Roles in viticulture are similar to other outdoor field horticulture roles. Tasks may include planting new vines, pest and disease management, watering, pruning, and harvesting. Much of the work is manual, and you may be outdoors in all weather. Technology is also used to monitor weather conditions and check how the crop performs.
Roles in oenology cover the selection and management of grape crops as well as the fermentation, bottling, and production process.
The popularity of wine also means vineyards often attract a good tourist market, with people visiting for tours and wine tasting.