chapel down sparkling english wine

English winemakers look set for a bumper harvest after this summer’s scorching heatwave.

Britain’s summer - the hottest on record since 1976 - produced “perfect conditions” for UK winemakers, according to West Sussex’s Nyetimber, with many expecting this year’s crop could top that of 2014, when a whopping 6.3 million bottles were produced.

Nyetimber itself has brought the start of its grape harvest forward by three weeks, and is hoping to be the first English wine brand to produce one million bottles from a single harvest.

Kent winery Chapel Down, meanwhile, is also “expecting its biggest yield ever”, according to its MD for wines & spirits Mark Harvey.

It comes as the British wine industry has benefited from surging interest from shoppers over the past year.

More than 2.5 million vines have been planted across England and Wales over the past two years alone, according to industry body WineGB, which predicts production could hit 40 million bottles per year by 2040. The WSTA expects the total area of land under vine in the UK to hit 3,000 hectares (currently 2,200) by 2020.

Producers are scaling up: Chapel Down has set its sights on creating England’s largest vineyard, having earlier this month exchanged on an agreement to lease 388 acres of viticultural land adjacent to its existing vineyards on Sussex’s North Downs. Once the site is vined (which the brand says will happen between 2019 and 2021), Chapel Down will have more than 950 acres from which to source its grapes.

Chapel Down’s brewing arm, Curious Brewery, has signed up to sponsor this year’s grape harvest, and will be sending bottles of its Curious Brew lager to grape-pickers at vineyards including Ridgeview and Hush Heath over the season.