‘We have a lot to be proud of, and we want to impress the hell out of all of the delegates,’ Justin Howard-Sneyd MW told guests in the glittering surroundings of London’s Vintners’ Hall.
‘The International Cool Climate Wine Symposium should be a must-attend event for pretty much everyone in this room, and the eyes of the world will be on us,’ said Justin, a member of the winning bid team and owner of the Domaine of the Bee winery.
The dinner, hosted by the Worshipful Company of Vintners, included guests representing all corners of the wine world and all sections of the UK wine industry, from buying and selling, to those involved in producing and those representing the sector at home and abroad.
‘If our first dinner with our gracious hosts, the Worshipful Company of Vintners, two years ago was all about looking back, this evening’s dinner is about looking forward, to the future as the industry expands,’ said Paul Langham, outgoing chairman of the UKVA.
Remarking how the area under vine in England and Wales had grown in the last five years, Paul spoke of being ‘bombarded’ with enquiries from farmers at a trade show last November. ‘At this rate, it will double again in half the time it took last time.’
An illustration of quality
The dinner, with its selection of over a dozen still and sparkling wines, white, red and rosé, proved a showcase of the quality currently on offer.
‘We will wow them, of that I’m sure,’ said Oz Clarke, who will lead a keynote tasting of still English wines at the symposium. ‘It’s a brilliant chance to put the focus on the astonishing progress and the incredible potential we have with making wine on these shores, bearing in mind our unpredictable weather.’
Sparkling wine specialist and fellow speaker Essi Avellan MW said ‘It is very exciting for the English wine industry. I really believe in the future of English and Welsh sparkling wine and I am really impressed with the quality. I would come even if I wasn’t speaking.’
‘It’s to the credit of those like Chris Foss [Plumpton College] and the late Mike Roberts [Ridgeview], fellow members of the bid team, that the symposium is coming here,’ said Dermot Sugrue, winemaker of many an award-winning wine himself, including Wiston Estate’s rosé that BAFTA tea party guests in LA enjoyed recently. ‘The timing is just right. In the last two to three years, English wine’s profile around the world has really been raised.’
‘We want to help you open the doors to people,’ said Rupert Clevely, Master of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, ‘to convey an understanding of how good and how exciting this event will be for English wine. To bring people here to show them, among other things, the innovation and the boutique-y element of the UK wine industry.’
‘We will succeed in doing this if everybody in the industry pitches in and pulls together for a common cause,’ said Justin, asking his audience for three things: Help with spreading awareness, financial support, and attendance – ‘come and join us’, he said.
‘We are almost two-thirds of the way to our sponsorship target, but we can still accommodate two to three more major sponsors and five more winery sponsors – from anywhere in the world,’ he said, before extending an invitation to all to join the ICCWS with a corporate or personal membership of the Patrons’ Circle.
The global stage
‘The ICCWS is a way of saying that we have arrived,’ said Sam Lindo, Camel Valley winemaker and incoming chair of the UKVA. Miles Beale, chief executive, Wines & Spirits Trade Association agreed: ‘The symposium will offer a fine showcase for English wines, illustrating what English – and Welsh – wines can offer. It will put the UK on the global wine map, giving it the recognition it deserves.’
But let’s leave the final word to the producers, whose turn it will be to host this prestigious event.
‘For UK producers to meet the rest of the world and talk shop about making wine – it’s an incredible opportunity. We can learn so much,’ said Henry Laithwaite, founder and winemaker of the Harrow & Hope Winery in Buckinghamshire. ‘I’m looking forward to welcoming all the guests,’ said Dermot. ‘Our doors are open.’