The heightened interest in winemaking in the UK has increased interest in a relatively new type of estate to the country: the British wine estate.
According to Knight Frank’s viticulture experts, Britain is currently the fastest growing wine region in the world. Throughout Southeast England, demand for vineyards as well as undeveloped land suitable for viticulture is growing rapidly, from international growers to hobbyist oenophiles.
This summer, California-based wine giant Jackson Family Wines – owners of flagship brand Kendall-Jackson – became the first major still wine producer to invest in the English viticulture sector. The US company, which has more than 40 wineries in the US, Australia, South Africa, Chile, France and Italy, will initially produce sparkling wines at a contract winemaking facility in Kent, but it has also acquired 65 acres of land in Essex Is. Where it plans to plant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines with the aim of producing super-premium still and sparkling wines.
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Ed Mansell Lewis, head of viticulture at Knight Frank, who brokered the purchase of Jackson Family Wines, said, “Typically existing wineries are trying to expand their acreage under vine, but recently “We have seen some significant new entrants.” “Most people are making premium sparkling wines, but these are the first to make bottles of still wine for over £60 (US$75) in the UK”
Viticulture expert Will Banham, director of the estate and farm agency of Strutt & Parker, said, so far, the turnover of properties cannot be compared with the sale of classic French vineyards, with a vineyard surrounded by its own vines. Including the palace.
“But buyers are beginning to expand their searches to include large-scale country properties adjacent to land suitable for planting,” he said, “with a view to creating something that is more like a British version of a wine estate.” “This is something that is a relatively new phenomenon in the market that we are starting to see in the last six to 12 months.”
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an emerging industry
Wine has been cultivated commercially in Britain since the 1960s, but for decades most producers grew German grape varieties, which are suitable for cooler climates. This changed in the 2000s, when the first English sparkling wines began winning awards and attracting international attention. The region’s growth began to accelerate in 2015, when Champagne Taittinger purchased 171 acres of land in Kent from which they launched their premium English sparkling wine brand Domaine Evrémonde.
“After the 2015 purchase, suddenly everyone thought, ‘Okay, it must be cool if the French are doing this,’” Lewis said.
The market for land suitable for viticulture has developed “really very rapidly”, Banham said during an inquiry about buying or establishing a vineyard in the past year.
When the 2015 Champagne Taittinger was purchased, “we were selling good quality farmland at a slight premium to farm value,” he said. “Standard farmland cost £8,000 an acre and land for a vineyard would have cost £12,000 an acre. Now, we are at the point where standard farmland may be a little over £10,000 an acre, but land suitable for vines is probably more than £16,000 to £20,000 an acre.
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Due to rising costs of labor and materials, the price of setting up a vineyard has also increased in recent years. He estimated that the cost of planting and establishment on the land would be £15,000 per acre, with a wait of between five and eight years to see a return on investment.
This means that while many established vineyards are looking for suitable undeveloped land to expand their operations, some new entrants to the market prefer to purchase established vineyards. Although to date, very few have changed hands, “more are beginning to be sold,” he said. “A considerable portion is sold off the market because the sellers are often quite private.”
Amid rising demand, prices for established vineyards have also increased. Chris Spofforth said, “For a long time £25,000 to £30,000 an acre for a good vineyard was the norm, but now £35,000 to £40,000 for a good acre of land is out of the question.” , director of farms and estates and head of viticulture at Seville.
As the demand is increasing, the number of buyers is also increasing.
“You can hardly name a country, or at least a continent, that hasn’t talked to us,” he said. “We have South Africans coming in, now Americans coming in. There’s been some significant investment from the Far East in the last few weeks, really, so there’s a lot coming in from overseas.
But most of the demand, especially for small and medium-scale investments, still comes from fellow Britons.
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Climate change is helping the boom
As farmers and landowners become more aware of the value of land suitable for wine production, deals are increasingly being conducted off-market. For buyers seeking a vineyard, this means that patience and a good agent are both key. The best sites for viticulture are located at altitudes less than 100 meters above sea level, with free-draining soils, south-facing slopes with high average temperatures and sunshine hours, and shelter from strong winds and late frosts. .
“If people want a minimum of 15 to 20 acres, obviously in large part, they are restricted to North and South Downs in Kent and Surrey and East and West Sussex, and there is always a limited amount of that land. that will be available for purchase on the open market or privately,” Banham said.
But as climate change increases temperatures in the UK, the market is growing.
“You’ll find that the demand for land will start to grow further out from the southeast,” Spofforth said. “Certainly East Anglia is very popular. Essex has been popular for a while, but it’s growing in places like Suffolk, Norfolk. There is no reason why Oxfordshire and Berkshire should not become increasingly popular, and grapes and brands are moving towards the west and Wales.”
Projections from Strutt & Parker’s Summer 2023 Viticulture Report estimate that England’s current 10 wine-producing counties are expected to almost triple to 27 by 2040, including Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, the East Midlands, the Severn Valley, Includes Southwest England and South Wales.
Importance of place making
Demand for a true country home vineyard is likely to increase as winemakers look for direct-to-consumer sales with the assistance of restaurants or bed and breakfasts.
Strutt and Parker’s 2023 report estimates that investment in vineyards and wineries in the UK over the past five years was approximately £480 million. There are now more than 900 vineyards in the UK – an increase of 80% over the past five years and almost triple the number 20 years ago. As new businesses are growing, an emerging trend among vineyards is that they are looking for ways to sell directly to consumers, thereby maximizing their profits per bottle.
“When you look at that £480 million figure, a lot of that is made up of land purchases, establishment of vineyards, new vineyards and significant acreage coming into productive life over the last three to five years has been put in place, and one of the things people are conscious of is that there needs to be a viable route to market,” Banham said.
The Wine of Great Britain report found that wine sales were expected to account for just 19% of direct-to-consumer sales in 2022. Lewis said that as the industry grows, vineyard buyers are looking not only for land, but also suitable properties to set up cafes, restaurants or tasting rooms to supplement bottle sales. Have been. “Encouraging people to visit their wineries should be a part of every wine producer’s strategy, so I think we should focus people on the quality of the place where they make and trade their wines. “