A vibrant buzz reflected a fast growing and buoyant wine sector as the Vineyard & Winery show made an impressive debut at the Kent County Showground at the end of November.

This historic event, organised by the Vineyard magazine team, was a long-term dream of Show President Julian Barnes, owner of one of Kent’s oldest vineyards, Biddenden. His vision was to hold a show on the scale of events seen in other wine regions around the world – and this was more than amply achieved.

The free-to-attend, one-day event attracted more than 2,000 visitors, featured 80 trade exhibitors and provided tastings of the UK’s 100 top wines, as well as hosting a structured tasting from globally renowned wine writer Matthew Jukes. Expert speakers and a full day of technical seminars informed a packed audience on topics current and pertinent to the industry.

Suppliers to the industry made the most of the perfect event to showcase their latest machinery, equipment, technology and professional services, offering, as it did, a long-awaited opportunity for the whole industry to network and do face-to-face business. Both well-established vineyards and prospective growers were able to speak to experts and seek professional advice. 

The Kent County Showground did not disappoint and provided the perfect venue, with all exhibitors, activities and events under one roof. Local catering and free coffee made it an enjoyable, as well as valuable, day out. Beautifully etched glasses were given to each visitor, along with an individual disposable spittoon, helping make the day Covid-19 safe.

“A massive congratulations  to you and all the  team for bringing together such an amazing event – the showground was buzzing with enthusiasm and knowledge.” – Lucinda, Blackdown Ridge

Topping the billing and opening the show were keynote speaker Ben Kantsler, Nyetimber Vineyard’s head viticulturist, and Wines of Great Britain’s CEO and Master of Wine Simon Thorpe. 

Ben Kantsler is responsible for luxury sparkling wine producer Nyetimber’s 800 acres of estate-owned vineyard spanning the counties of West Sussex, Kent and Hampshire, with more than 1.5 million vines. Originally from Southwestern Australia, Ben’s first taste of an English sparkling wine apparently challenged his pre-conception on what growing requirements were needed for fine wine. After working in vineyards across the globe, Ben joined Nyetimber in 2015. He was able to share his valuable experiences of Australia, working through expanding and contracting markets, and gave his thoughts on what the UK could learn from it. 

The seminar programme, sponsored by working capital and investment platform Ferovinum Ltd, was chaired by Simon Thorpe MW. The seminar area was packed, and while 160 chairs were laid out, it was often standing room only. One of the speakers, Dr Alistair Nesbitt, did a quick poll to see who already had a vineyard and who was planning to plant; it transpired that nearly half the audience were considering planting, reflecting the interest, and investment, in the UK wine sector. 

The first session, Venturing into viticulture in a changing climate was aimed at providing information and access to support for new entrants to the UK wine industry.

In his presentation Wines of Great Britain – helping your business to thrive, Simon Thorpe used the analogy of ‘teenage years’ to describe the UK wine industry – growing rapidly but still with a few challenges. He said that as the industry continued to grow it was vital there was a representative body to help provide the framework and environment in which vineyards and wine producers could build towards a sustainable future. 

WineGB strives to provide that support, from those considering planting their first vines to the old guard. Simon was able to outline the key strategic pillars and objectives of WineGB as well as giving an overview of the many activities planned for 2022.

The future climate for grape growing in the UK was the title of Dr Alistair Nesbitt’s presentation. Alistair is a world respected viticulture climatologist and CEO of Vinescapes, a specialist consultancy that supports the technical and strategic development of wine production businesses. 

Alistair presented early results from the Climate Resilience in the UK Wine Sector (CREWS-UK) research project showing how climate change will affect the wine production sector in the UK.

He explained how the results of the project will help inform better decision-making, investment and adaptation, and emphasised the importance of vineyard site selection. 

“Many congratulations on staging a wonderful Vineyard and Winery Show yesterday at the Kent Showground. I hope all the exhibitors got real value from the number of visitors you managed to encourage to the event. As a new grower it was very inspiring and informative.” – Ian Beecher-Jones, Chiltern Hills Farms  

James Dodson, from Vine-Works Ltd, a vineyard establishment and management company, provided advice from the ground up in his presentation, Setting up a vineyard: the costs and practical considerations. 

James explained that establishing a vineyard can be a daunting and expensive task and said poor advice and mistakes could be costly. With some facts, figures and examples, James gave those considering planting a new vineyard information on how to get it right from the start, with a realistic budget, to see the project over the finish line.

Discover how capital can become your key competitive advantage was the title of Mitchel Fowler’s presentation. Mitchel is the founder of Ferovinum Ltd, a company that provides a tailor-made working capital product. He explained that with access to capital a key competitive advantage, and UK viticulture producing world-class traditional method sparkling wine, Ferovinum Ltd was levelling the playing field with its innovative approach to inventory finance, helping businesses invest for the long term and build resilient brands.

“Just a note to congratulate you on a fantastic show yesterday. I was blown away by the size of the event and the number of exhibitors and attendees.” – Nick Wenman, Albury Vineyard   

Through the rest of the day, expert speakers shared their knowledge and inspired discussion across all disciplines: wine marketing, grape growing and winemaking. These included presentations on building a sustainable business through wine tourism, achieving yield and quality fruit and the wine chemistry behind malolactic fermentations for acid management.

The show attracted anyone and everyone interested in the growing UK wine sector, including vineyard owners and winemakers, prospective vineyard owners, wine writers, wine buyers, suppliers and consultants. It was busy all day on social media, with lots of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts from visitors pleased to be networking with peers. 

Coes Farm tweeted: “Great day at the #vineyardshow today. Thanks to
@vineyardmaggb” – to which Calleva Wine replied: “Couldn’t agree more! It was brilliantly organised and so good to catch up with so many friends and business partners. Many thanks and huge congratulations to all involved!”

Sarah Calcutt, Show Director, commented: “My best quote of the day: ‘isn’t it great, we don’t have to go to France for a trade show anymore’ just like British consumers don’t need to buy wine from anywhere else any more either, we can do it better right here!”

Glyn Scriven from Royston Labels, show sponsor and exhibitor, commented: “It is so refreshing to see the growth of our industry and the turnout of visitors is a testimony to that. With established vineyards investing and growing and many new start up vineyards coming down the track, it demonstrates that we have a real success story in the UK – we will definitely be back next year.“

Paula Nesbitt, from exhibitor Vinescapes, commented: “‘The Vineyard and Winery Show was fantastic. A great event for both those currently in the sector and newcomers, providing an opportunity to listen and talk to experts and access suppliers across the UK and Europe. We’ll definitely be exhibiting again next year.”

“We were so busy.  I would be talking to one customer and then I’d turn round and another one was waiting to talk to me.  No time to stop at all – Steve at NP Seymour   


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