A record amount of English wine, 4 million bottles, was produced last year as an increasing number of farmers turn to the popular crop.
Though last year's harvest was marred by the cold and wet late summer, it proved to be good conditions for sparkling wine, which thrives in cool weather.
Figures from English Wine Producers, the trade body, said that 30,346 hectolitres was produced, equating to just over 4 million bottles in 2010. This is the highest volume ever produced, breaking a previous record of 3.5 million bottles and up from 3.14 million in 2009.
The substantial increase suggests farmers are starting to take the crop seriously, having increased the amount of land turned over to wine grapes by nearly 75 per cent over the last five years to 3,270 acres.
The extra vines have been mostly planted by, or by suppliers of, two of the biggest producers, Chapel Down and Nyetimber, both of whom specialise in sparkling wine. The figures suggested that over half of all the wine produced in England is now sparkling.
Another major new entrant is the supermarket Waitrose, which in 2009 started planting chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes – classic varieties used by Champagne producers – at its Leckford Estate in Hampshire. These vines will not start producing grapes for another year or two.