Three of the best known English wineries are joining forces in an effort to gain critical mass. There are very few major players in the industry which battles against high taxes in comparison to its continental counterparts and is overshadowed by the rising tide of wines from the New World. Now the profile of the industry could go up several notches with the merger of Chapel Down Wines, Lamberhurst and Carr Taylor. Each is well known in its own right, but will now be part of a new business called English Wines. This will have assets of £4m and will have the capacity to produce one million bottles (83,000 cases) a year. It will have 250 acres of vineyard under its ownership or contractual control. Chapel Down's commercial director Tim Hazell said: "For the first time we will be able to act in a more efficient commercial way. To have another big player will help the English wine trade." Production for the three operations will move to Chapel Down's winery at Tenterden, which has efficient modern equipment and the necessary capacity. There will be various benefits in economies of scale. Hazell said: "We will review the product portfolios of the individual companies and come up with a combined range using the brand strength of each operation." The new business is still considering strategy but the aim is to develop sales quickly. Hazell said he wanted to double volumes in a very short time. Chapel Down is already growing fast, having made inroads into the multiples with listings in Tesco, Safeway and Waitrose, as well as a contract to supply British Airways. Executive chairman of English Wines Nicky Branch said: "This is another step in a sequence which will lead to there being two or three large commercial operators alongside local and niche players. "English Wines will have the reputation, brands, facilities and financial muscle to play a decisive role in the future of our wine trade." There are some 370 vineyards in the south of England and Wales and 110 wineries, most of which rely on farmgate sales and local support. Last year they produced 1.8 million bottles (147,000 cases). {{DRINKS }}