Many thanks to all who could join us on 14 March 2023, for the English and Welsh Wine Symposium, hosted by the CHEFS research cluster and the Department of Service Sector Management, Sheffield Business School.
The half day event explored the current context and future directions of the English and Welsh wine industry, with keynotes, a tutored tasting of English and Welsh wines, and a panel discussion featuring a cross-section of industry perspectives. Co-organisers Professor Jennifer Smith Maguire and Dr John Dunning welcomed over 50 academics and industry professionals, including wine makers, winery owners, wine retailers and wine writers, and hospitality and retail professionals.
The afternoon’s first keynote was delivered by Mr Simon Thorpe: ‘WineGB and its role supporting an emerging wine region.’ Simon is a Master of Wine, past trustee of the WSET, and current CEO of WineGB, the industry body for the wine production sector in Great Britain. Simon’s presentation provided a ‘state of the nation’ overview of wine production in the UK, and reviewed the challenges and opportunities for supporting an industry in its journey to maturity. Simon effusively captured the optimism of the event: “We are brilliantly set up: brilliant product, enormous market, brilliant consumers. We are amazingly well set up to be successful.”
Professor Steve Charters delivered the second keynote: ‘PDOs and Terroir: The Complexities of Wine and Place.‘ A Master of Wine, Steve is Professor of Marketing at Burgundy School of Wine and Spirits Business, and Adjunct Professor at Adelaide Business School. Steve’s talk explored the historical roots of PDOs (Protected Designations of Origin), which were a matter more of struggles between grape growers and wine merchants and the pursuit of economic power, than mystical notions of soil and place. Steve also shared preliminary findings from the UK portion of a transnational study of consumer perceptions of terroir, underlining that the sort of PDO that might best serve English and Welsh wine producers was far from straightforward.
Following lively question and answer sessions for each keynote, and a brief coffee break, the event resumed with a tutored tasting of a selection of wines, generously selected and donated by WineGB. Led by Simon Thorpe, the tasting took participants through six wines showcasing the diversity of English and Welsh wine production:
Penn Croft Bacchus 2021
Yotes Court Loose Rein 2021
White Castle Siegerrebe 2021
Sharpham Dart Valley Reserve 2020
Halfpenny Green Chardonnay 2019
Thorrington Mill Pinot Noir Rosé 2021
We had fantastic engagement from participants in the discussion of the wines, which ranged from anecdotes about the challenges of growing different varieties, to the challenges of selling little known varieties (Bacchus, Siergerrebe, Madeleine Angevine) to consumers, to the question of whether colour should matter when it comes to rosé.
The final major portion of the Symposium was devoted to a panel discussion, chaired by Dr Greg Dunn, head of the wine division at Plumpton College. Panellists drew on their varied industry perspectives to reflect on the challenges and opportunities for the future of English and Welsh wine. Mr Will Harper (a Sheffield Hallam alum!) drew on his experience in the hospitality industry and role as General Manager at Ivy Asia to offer excellent insights as to where small scale wines are best served (and not best served) in the spectrum of restaurant businesses. Mr Barry Starmore reflected on how much had changed over his long involvement in wine retail in terms of consumer interests and tastes, and highlighted the unique capacity of independent retailers to hand sell small scale wines and tell their stories. Finally, Mr Kieron Atkinson drew on his wide and varied experience as a winemaker at Renishaw Hall and Darley Abbey, alongside several other wine industry roles, to reflect on the challenges of creating financially sustainable wineries that take best advantage of their place.
The Symposium concluded with a networking event, the centrepiece of which was a selection of English sparkling wines donated by WineGB. Guests were treated to:
Dunesforde Queen of the North
Raimes Blanc de Noirs
Harrow & Hope Brut Rosé
Giffords Hall Classic Cuvée
Smith & Evans
Breaky Bottom Grace Nicols
Judging by the volume of conversations in the room, there was plenty of appetite for further discussion and agreement that the future of English and Welsh wines looks bright indeed.
Thanks in particular to the Department of Service Sector Management, Sheffield Business School, and to Mrs Julia Trustram Eve and WineGB, for the fantastic support that made the event possible.
Until next time!