A combination of climate change, labour shortages and increased shipping costs is threatening Britain’s wine supplies, with prices rises likely to follow. In response, Wine Drinkers UK (WDUK) is calling on the Government to commit to freezing wine duty at the upcoming Budget, in a show of support for industry and wine drinkers who are facing price hikes on their favourite drink this winter.

Wine writer, broadcaster and WDUK supporter, Helena Nicklin said: “Around 99% of the wine we consume in the UK is imported so the UK’s wine drinkers are going to feel the impact of this perfect storm hitting the sector. Currently more than 50% of the price of a shop-bought bottle of wine goes straight into the Treasury’s pocket. It is time we see a show of support in the upcoming Budget for this industry that generates £11 billion annually for the UK economy in sales alone.”

With French, Italian and English wines hit by extreme weather and failed yields, Californian wines affected by wildfires and New Zealand feeling the impact of its closed borders with a shortage of harvest labourers, it is a challenging time for the industry. 

The global picture:  

  • The Champagne harvest is down 60%[1]
  • In New Zealand, regions throughout the middle of the country – including Wairarapa, Marlborough, Nelson, and North Canterbury – yields are down over 20% on 2020[2]
  • Frosts and poor weather in France is expected to result in a 29% drop in the production of French wine[3]
  • Harvest yield in Italy is to fall by 9%, with extreme summer drought and wildfires taking their toll on Italian wine producers[4]
  • California crushed 3.404 million tons of grapes in 2020, down 13% year-on-year due to multiple factors including the devastating wildfires[5]

David Gates, CEO of Direct Wines, said: “Reliable weather is of course fundamental to winemaking, and we’re very concerned by what we’ve been hearing from our network of 427, mostly family, wineries around the world. Following the struggles of Covid-19, a string of very challenging harvests across multiple regions is proving incredibly tough for many.”

Chris Stroud, Market Manager Europe, New Zealand Winegrowers, adds: “New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is one of Britain’s favourite wines but there’s a very real possibility that consumers will find it harder to get their hands on it this winter. The strong demand coupled with a significant shortfall in vintage, as the combination of labour shortages and increased shipping costs hits supplies, means that there will be tough decisions to make to meet the demands of trade customers, retailers and consumers. 

“Wines from vintage 2021 promise to be something special, but the question may just be whether there is enough to go around.”

Wine[6] is the UK’s favourite alcoholic drink but tax rises on wine have far outstripped those on other alcoholic drinks and twice as fast as that on beer. The last cut in duty on wine was in 1984 when Nigel Lawson was Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher.

[1] Data from The Drinks Business

2 Data from New Zealand Winegrowers

3 Data from France’s agriculture ministry

4 Data from Assoenologi, Unione Italiana Vini, and the ISMEA agricultural institute

5 Data from The 2020 Preliminary Winegrape Crush Report for California

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