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East Anglia breaks open the bubbly as study shows untapped potential to be top wine-growing region

PUBLISHED: 01:00 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:24 12 November 2018

Owner of Tuffon Hall Vineyard, Angus Crowther taking a look at the vines  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Owner of Tuffon Hall Vineyard, Angus Crowther taking a look at the vines Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

The best place to grow grapes for the world’s top tipples may soon be parts of East Anglia rather than the great wine regions of France, according to a new report.

Pinot Meurnier grapes  at Tuffon Hall Vineyard  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPinot Meurnier grapes at Tuffon Hall Vineyard Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Researchers from the University of East Anglia have identified nearly 35,000ha of prime grapevine growing land across the south-east of England, with some of the top areas earmarked in Suffolk and Essex.

Helped by wine producers, they have used new geographical analysis techniques to assess and grade every 50m sq plot of land in England and Wales for suitability for growing grapes.

Lead author Dr Alistair Nesbitt said: “Interestingly, some of the best areas that we found are where relatively few vineyards currently exist such as in Essex and Suffolk - parts of the country that are drier, warmer and more stable year-to-year than some more established vineyard locations.”

The study also showed many existing vineyards aren’t well located, and Dr Nesbitt warned that entering the viticulture industry isn’t for the faint-hearted, as risks were high and heavy investment needed.

Angus Crowther amongst the Pinot Meurnier vines  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNAngus Crowther amongst the Pinot Meurnier vines Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Arable farmer Angus Crowther, who took the plunge in 2011 when he planted his first 6,000 vines, is set to expand his vineyard at Tuffon Hall, Castle Hedingham, Halstead, next year, taking it to twice its original size.

His wines are already being compared by a top wine expert, Master of Wine Anthony Foster, to some of the great wines of France, placing his Bacchus alongside Sauvignon as a noble variety and his Beatrice Rosé alongside the top Provençal Rosés.

“It’s pretty amazing,” he said. He believes he planted at the right time, picking out the best Champagne region varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes over the Germanic grapes previously favoured here.

He’s already sold out of his sparkling wine in stock, and this year’s heatwave led to a bumper, high quality crop, auguring well for the next batch. As demand for top quality English wine exceeds supply, it can demand a premium, with provenance a selling point, he added. Being at the top of the northern hemisphere wine-growing area band, and with good daylight hours and temperatures, the region had much untapped potential for high quality wine. “It’s now really, really good, and that’s why people are prepared to pay more.”

Pinot Meurnier grapes  at Tuffon Hall Vineyard  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNPinot Meurnier grapes at Tuffon Hall Vineyard Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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