Brexit could put the fizz into UK wine industry says Northampton university expert

Julia Bennett, who runsBrynne Vineyardwith her husband Mark in Brixworth
Julia Bennett, who runsBrynne Vineyardwith her husband Mark in Brixworth

The UK’s wine industry could be in line for a major boost if the cost of importing wine from the EU rockets post-Brexit, according to an expert from the University of Northampton.

Drinks industry specialist, Simon Wragg, has speculated on the likely impact of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union – and it makes potentially good reading for British wine producers.

He said: “The UK is a huge importer of wine from EU countries. A Doomsday scenario could see the UK introduce trade tariffs on EU wine, which would push up the price of a bottle significantly for UK consumers.

“This could be disastrous for France, Italy, Spain, Germany and other EU producers. Some EU suppliers are already vulnerable to a decline in trade, due to poor weather conditions, so to have barriers put up could pile on the pressure among some European growers.

“This situation could, of course, favour the UK’s own wine-producers, who might look to increase their domestic market share in UK supermarkets, filling up empty shelf space created due to the scarcity of imported EU wine.”

If reciprocal trade barriers were put in place by the EU, Simon believes that might present a great opportunity for the UK to expand beyond its domestic market.

He said: “Realistically, we are never going to be major exporters of wine to the established wine-making EU nations. But, there may be an opportunity to sign trade deals with non-EU countries, for example the USA, Japan and China, which has an increasing thirst for wine.”

The weakening of the pound has already hit UK consumers of EU wine in the pocket, with an increased cost in importing forcing some retailers, including online seller Naked Wines, to mark up prices by nearly five per cent on many of its wines.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association had already warned the UK consumer might have to pay an extra 29p on average for a bottle of EU-produced wine, as costs are passed on.

“Throw in the possibility of the reintroduction of duty free regulations, which will put an end to people filling up their car boots on booze cruises to the continent, and the UK could be in a very interesting position post-Brexit for domestic wine producers to increase their market share and evaluate opportunities for their product,” said Simon.

The predictions have been welcomed by Julia Bennett, who runs Brynne Vineyard with her husband Mark in the village of Brixworth, five miles north of Northampton.

“You can buy a bottle of EU wine for £3 or £4 a bottle from Lidl and I can’t make it for that price, let alone sell it for that,” said Julia.

“If the price of EU wine were to increase significantly, it would be good news for us domestic producers, as we might finally have the competitive edge.

“Despite UK wine generally costing more than EU supermarket wine, we are finding there is a growing demand for locally produced, good quality food and drink. People like to know where their produce comes from, and make a conscious effort to support local businesses.

“Some people still think of English wine as the stuff our dads made at home in the 1970s and 80s, but when they taste our wine they can’t believe how good it is.

“English wine’s reputation is growing, and hopefully the situation with Brexit will play into our hands.”

Simon agrees. He said: “Our strength currently lies in sparkling wine. We give the French a real run for their money, with UK wines winning a number of prestigious international awards recently, consistently beating French Champagne in blind tasting competitions. So we have a brilliant product to export.”