The Welsh wine industry has been handed a boost and developed stronger links with UK hospitality and retail audiences, as well as increased consumer awareness following Welsh Wine Week.
During the celebration (2-11 June 2023) several events, guided tours and promotions were held to give wine lovers the chance to discover Wales’ picturesque vineyards and sample the wide range of award-winning wines available.
A trade event featuring six Welsh vineyards took place in Cardiff on 6 June giving attendees from wine merchants, small independent businesses, chefs, and wider industry influencers the opportunity to sample the very best of Welsh wine, from the most renowned vineyards, and learn more from the passionate and knowledgeable vineyards themselves.
Attending the trade event in Cardiff was Woody Lennard of Montgomery Vineyard who saw the event as a fantastic opportunity to showcase his brand and the wider industry,
“Welsh Wine Week is a big celebration of the quality of wines and vineyards we have here in Wales. To have a number of great vineyards together in one place to showcase and offer tastings of our wines to people from all over the country, including influencers and specialists who’ve been in the industry for years is fantastic. Events such as this is all about growing the awareness of our brand, the Welsh wine industry as a whole and the provenance of our vineyards.”
Other events during the week included a number of tasting sessions at Velfrey Vineyard, Narberth; White Castle Vineyard, Abergavenny; Hebron Vineyard in Whitland and Gwinllan y Dyffryn Vineyard in Denbigh. Meanwhile one of Wales’ newest vineyards, The Dell, in Monmouthshire opened its doors for the first time and welcomed people for a tour of their vineyard planted in May 2022 and to show them how it has developed. .
Commenting on the importance of the Welsh wine industry, Fiona Mounsey of Velfrey Vineyard, said:
“The Welsh wine industry is a very young one, but it’s growing and the quality is so good. The attention to detail and the hard work that we all put into our vineyards reflects in the wine we produce. The healthier the vines and grapes are, the better the quality of the wine.
“Wales has some fantastic vineyards, producing a great range of wines that are helping to complement the tourism offer for visitors coming to Wales. It’s a rewarding time to be working in the industry that is proving itself on the world stage.”
Robb Merchant, owner of White Castle Vineyard, added:
“The Welsh wine industry has been growing over the past 10 years, with now close to 40 vineyards. It is becoming an integral part of the Welsh economy.
“We have a growing industry. It is labour intensive as we see established vineyards growing and new larger plantings being planned, so that creates job opportunities. There is also the tourism aspect, those vineyards that are open to visitors are creating some great opportunities for tourists to visit and tour, learn about the growing process and then taste and learn about the wines they produce. Many are now becoming a primary destination for visitors. There is a real demand for Welsh wine across the UK.”
Designed to give audiences in Wales and beyond the opportunity to discover the country’s burgeoning number of vineyards and reveal its range of award-winning wines, Welsh Wine Week aims to boost the sales of Welsh wines, tasting and learning more about the number of varieties available and the climate in which they develop and grow.
The celebration was organised by the Welsh Drinks Cluster, delivered by category consultants Levercliff and funded by the Welsh Government. The Cluster works in partnership with drinks producers and vineyards to promote the industry and its production of world-class products.
Welsh Government Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths, said:
“Welsh Wine Week is important in celebrating our vineyards which are in a growing and prosperous industry.
“Welsh wine businesses continue to thrive and there is real potential to build on what has already been achieved. The sector is becoming an increasingly important part of both the food and drink and visitor economy.”
With almost 40 vineyards now operating across the country, Wales’ credibility as an innovative producer of high-quality wine has blossomed thanks to its pioneering vineyard owners, the fantastic fruit that is grown as well as Wales’ distinctive landscape and microclimate. There are over 20 different grape varieties grown, producing exceptional red, white, rosé and sparkling wines.
Recently, a first-of-its-kind strategy was launched by the Welsh Government’s Drinks Cluster, to set the clear direction for the Welsh wine industry for the next twelve years and increase the sector’s current value by 10-fold to reach £100 million by 2035. The industry-led strategy is designed to ensure Wales builds on its emerging reputation as an experimental producer of varying wines, following some impressive successes in recent years that have been rewarded with a number of international awards.
The new strategy highlights Wales’ achievements over the past year, including Welsh wine sales which, alongside English wine, increased by 31.3% to 9.3 million bottles in 2021 .
It also outlines five strategic priorities including unlocking the potential of Welsh Wine tourism, developing a high-quality online presence, the creation of a Welsh wine identity/brand, investing in skills development and developing an aligned organisational structure. By exploring these five key pillars further, Welsh wine experts predict from past success that wine sales and revenue from cellar door activities, including wine tasting events, vineyard tours and overnight experiences will bring in a revenue of £14.4 million by 2035 .
Key to the strategy is the industry’s determination to embed an ethos of fair work and sustainability at its core. A good example of this is Gwinllan Conwy Vineyard, who earlier this year introduced the use of sheep fleece between its vines after they were found to cut the need for chemicals and improved fruit quality.
Following a successful trial, the vineyard lays down thousands of fleeces under its vine rows to improve the soil, deter weeds, and reflect sunlight back onto the grapes, while potentially creating a brand new market for wool. A local sheep farmer who has been using fleeces around his vegetables to deter slugs and feed nutrients into the soil suggested the idea to vineyard owner Colin Bennet.
Results show increased ripeness of the grapes, better nutrients in the soil under the fleeces, providing insulation and retaining moisture in the soil as well as deterring snails and slugs. This is also a great example of a collaborative project by two local businesses working together in a sustainable way.
The tourism impact on Welsh GDP, partnered with Welsh wine’s popular growth is predicted to bring in a further £75.9 million by 2035 .