Many new growers have been defined by the scale of their ambitions: the UK competes with ultra-rich Napa for the amount of cash pumped in by wealthy individuals over such a short time, claims Joseph. “Leading names like Gusbourne, Hattingley Valley, Rathfinny, Chapel Down, Nyetimber and Coates & Seely all owe their existence not just to skill and enthusiasm, but access to financing. So Gusbourne, which cost Lord Ashcroft’s wine investment company £7m to buy in 2013, made annual losses of over £1.5m in 2017 and 2018. Last year, investors pumped in an extra £3.7m. Long-established, sizeable, self-funding family-run wineries like Ridgeview, Camel Valley and Bolney are the exceptions to the rule.”
Joseph remains cautiously optimistic about the long-term viability of the industry, but is unsure of producers’ ability to maintain their current high price point. The smart money, he says, suggests that “in a decade or so – as the number of bottles produced every year increases and the range of styles and production methods broadens – a lot of English sparkling wine will be on sale for significantly less than its typical £30 today”. Good news for consumers, then, but perhaps less so for producers.