Kent vineyards such as Hush Heath and Gusbourne boom as Japan becomes major customer


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Japan has become the latest nation to crave Kent's wines after a flurry of deals were uncorked to further boost the booming industry.

Kent has long been home to some of the nation's most celebrated vineyards and new statistics underline just how dominant the region is.

Kent's vineyards are leading the way when it comes to the English wine market Picture: Department for International Trade
Kent's vineyards are leading the way when it comes to the English wine market Picture: Department for International Trade

WineGB, the national association for winemakers, says the South East accounts for 61.5% of all hectares devoted to vineyards in the UK, thanks to its climate and soil.

And the appetite for English wine continues to soar around the world with approximately 550,000 bottles being shipped internationally in 2019 - double that exported in 2018.

Although the US continues to be the primary export market for English wine, Japan is fast becoming a key importer. It accounted for 6% of all exports - double the quantity of 2018.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) is continuing its campaign with wine producers to capitalise on the demand.

The Gusbourne Estate , in Appledore , recently secured a deal with Japan Airways. It will see its sparkling wine sold in the airline’s first-class lounges and is set to increase the estate’s sales to Japan six-fold.

Hush Heath in Staplehurst has recently signed a major deal in Japan Picture: Department for International Trade
Hush Heath in Staplehurst has recently signed a major deal in Japan Picture: Department for International Trade

The winery currently exports to over 20 countries across Europe, North America and Asia with its top three markets being the US, Norway and Japan.

Duncan Brown, head of export and travel retail at Gusbourne Estate said: “With Japan being the world’s third largest champagne export market, it provides natural potential for our English sparkling wines."

Hush Heath in Staplehurst recently secured a £100,000 deal with a Japanese wine importer and distributor, 21 Community, which was one of 30 wine distributors in Japan contacted by DIT on behalf of the winery.

The vineyard, which has scooped awards for its Balfour wines, currently exports to Norway, Finland, Germany, Spain, the US, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong.

Adam Williams, sales director at Hush Heath, said: "Seeing our wines in so many different countries is extremely exciting and although exporting currently represents a small part of our overall sales, they are growing significantly every year as the awareness and interest in English wines continues to grow.”

The South East dominates the UK's wine-making industry Picture: Department for International Trade
The South East dominates the UK's wine-making industry Picture: Department for International Trade

In revealing the latest information today, WineGB chairman, Simon Robinson, said: “Japan is well known as a market where high quality is critical, so it comes as no surprise that Japanese consumers have taken to our wines."

The DIT's Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart, added: “This is an exciting time for the English wine industry, as exports and e-commerce grow strongly, and higher production helps the sector recover from coronavirus .

“A self-confident English wine industry will be in pole position to take advantage of a future trade deal with Japan and capitalise on other agreements we will sign in the Asia-Pacific region, and across the world."

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