English and Welsh wine has firmly made its name at home and around the world in recent years – and today (Tuesday 16 April) Environment Secretary Steve Barclay announced further support for the industry to continue its rapid growth.   

Government has set aside £1.5m this year for a new Future Winemakers’ Scheme (FWS) to help develop skills and job opportunities in the sector and make sure the next generation of viticulturists can build on the successes of the past 20 years.  

The funding would be targeted at educating, training and upskilling, as businesses estimate thousands of new vineyard jobs will be created over the coming years.   

In addition to the UK’s longstanding status as a global wine trading hub, with a wine market worth over £10 billion in 2022, England and Wales have a fast-growing winemaking industry. Now boasting almost 1000 vineyards, hectares under vine in the UK have more than quadrupled since 2000.   

Viticulture – the cultivation and harvesting of grapes – is now actually Britain’s fastest-growing agricultural sector, employing around 2,300 people full time with a predicted 50% growth in jobs by 2025. 2023  also saw Great Britain’s largest-ever grape harvest, expected to produce an estimated 20-22m bottles and over 50% bigger on Britain’s previous record year in 2018.  

 

Benefiting from perfect growing conditions in the south of England, English Sparkling Wine such as Chapel Down’s Sparkling Wine is seeing a huge surge in popularity in recent years. DID YOU KNOW? The UK produced a massive 8.3 million bottles of sparkling wine in 2022. Photo credit: Chapel Down.

The Environment Secretary announced the new fund at the annual WineGB conference at Plumpton College, the UK’s centre of training for the wine-making sector, in East Sussex today. Further details on this will be announced in due course.  

He also revealed the latest steps in the Government’s programme to reform and simplify regulation for wine producers and traders.    

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: 

The UK has a long tradition of producing and trading wine, and the sector has significant scope to expand.

Around 2,300 people work in the British wine industry with a further 8,300 people employed part time, with numbers expected to grow by 50% next year.

We are proud of what British winemakers have achieved over recent years, and we continue to work hard in partnership with the wine sector to simplify the rules and bring in new financial support.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Nicola Bates, CEO of Wines of Great Britain (WineGB), the trade body for English and Welsh wine, said: 

The launch of this important educational fund is hugely significant and will ensure that we can train more British winemakers and viticulturists to staff our growing industry.  

We are pleased that the Secretary of State has listened to our members to better understand the ways that the Government can support our sector at this pivotal point in our history.  

We are the fastest growing agricultural industry with 4,200 hectares under vine, which is forecast to rise by 85% by 2032. After a bumper harvest of almost 22 million bottles last year, we need greater backing to ensure sustainable and transformative growth.

Sam Linter, Director of Wine at Plumpton College and Wine GB Chairman, said:  

As we look towards the future of the UK wine industry, empowering the next generation of people working in the industry at all levels, is not just an investment in individuals, but a strategic move towards driving innovation and sustainable growth within the sector.  

By prioritising training and development initiatives, we are nurturing a talent pipeline that will shape the landscape of winemaking and vine growing, elevate quality standards, and reinforce the UK’s position to becoming a key player in the global wine market.  

This commitment to education and skill-building is fundamental in ensuring the continued success and resilience of our industry, paving the way for a prosperous future filled with exceptional wines that reflect the rich heritage and promising potential of UK vineyards.”  

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: 

We welcome consultation on further reforms to the inherited EU rules for wine. There is an opportunity to introduce greater flexibility for wine producers and importers, which could allow businesses to innovate and so help to boost the UK’s status as a global hub for wine.

The new funding package will go towards delivering new courses at Plumpton College to develop skills and knowledge. It will also help to scale up training capacity to ensure a large enough skilled workforce is available to meet the increased growth potential of the industry.  

The government’s latest proposals for reforms for the wine industry, aiming to unlock growth, reduce burdens and offer more choice to consumers, include:  

  • New rules to make it possible for no and low alcohol wine to be produced and marketed as wine, in response to fast-growing consumer demand for drinks with lower or no alcohol content.  
  • Allowing the transformation of imported wine – this will unlock growth and employment opportunities for UK businesses who will be able to carbonate and sweeten wine here. This will encourage more wine to be imported in bulk, reducing shipping costs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions for the industry.  
  • Improvements to wine labelling rules that will ensure consumers understand exactly what they are purchasing; for example by requiring the term ‘British wine’ to only be used for wine products that are made here with British-grown grapes.   

The consultation will run until 10 May 2024.  

It follows an initial phase of reforms introduced in January, which included scrapping redundant rules on bottle shapes and mandatory mushroom shaped stoppers and foils for sparkling wine to reduce costs and support recycling. The Government also announced in December that businesses will be able to sell prepacked still and sparkling wine in a new 568ml ‘pint’ quantity.  

In addition to the newly announced funding, the Government is also helping wine growers through the Farming Investment Fund, where businesses can apply for support to invest in new tech, equipment and infrastructure to help improve productivity and environmental practices.  


  •  Wine GB is the national association for the English and Welsh wine industry.  
  • Plumpton College is the UK’s only wine centre of excellence in education, training and research, and offers courses for future wine makers as well as producing over 40,000 bottles of wine in its own Rock Lodge Vineyard each year.  

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