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Fields of gold: scientists find best place to plant a vineyard in UK...but are keeping lucrative location secret

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 09/11/2018 Sarah Knapton

Hampshire vineyard © Getty Hampshire vineyard In The Canterbury Tales, wine is dismissed as ‘a lecherous thing’ which disfigures the face, loosens the tongue and sours the breath.

So Chaucer’s pious Pardoner may be troubled to learn that scientists have discovered that the very best place to grow grapes for wine in Britain is a field just outside the historic cathedral city.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia surveyed every 54 yard square (50 metre sq) plot of land in England and Wales measuring crucial vinicultural factors, such as soil, elevation, slope gradient, sunlight, June rain and risk of frost.

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And after creating an algorithm to sort through the results, the team found that a field near Canterbury came out top. The site is so valuable that the researchers are keeping quiet about the exact location for now, and have not yet informed the landowner.

Rural East Anglia  © Getty Rural East Anglia  They also identified nearly 35,000 extra hectares which would make prime vineyard land, mostly in Kent, Sussex, Essex, East Anglia, Anglesey and the Vale of Glamorgan.

Lead author Dr Alistair Nesbitt said: “Entering into viticulture and wine production in England and Wales isn’t for the faint hearted - the investment required is high and risks are significant.

“Interestingly, some of the best areas that we found are where relatively few vineyards currently exist such as in Essex and Suffolk - parts of the country that are drier, warmer and more stable year-to-year than some more established vineyard locations.

“A small patch near Canterbury came out top so if someone had a few million to invest I would suggest going there. Its commercially sensitive however, so we can’t say exactly where it is.

“The techniques we used also showed that many existing vineyards are not that well located, so there is definitely room for improvement and we hope our model can help boost future productivity.”

The team believe that Britain’s warming climate is now close to conditions seen in the Champagne region of France during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, all excellent vintages.

Vineyard in England  © Getty Vineyard in England  England’s chalk soils have always been ideal for sparkling wine but the warming climate means that grapes are growing better than ever, and established French winemakers such as Taittinger have started planting vines across huge swathes of the British countryside.

This year English sparkling wine received more gold medals than the Champagne region in the Sommelier Wine Awards.

Experts predict the 2018 heatwave will produce the finest vintage England has ever seen, after a ‘textbook perfect’ summer, with long spells of hot dry weather followed by rain in August bringing plumper grapes.

There are now more than 500 commercial vineyards in England, covering 2,500 hectares. Although they are mostly in the South east a study commissioned by Laithwaite’s Wine last year found the changing climate will allow wine making in areas as far north as Edinburgh.

Vineyard in England  © Getty Vineyard in England  They forecast that England could be one of the world’s leading producers of wine by 2100.

Prof Steve Dorling, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “English and Welsh vineyards are booming, and their wine is winning international acclaim.

“This summer’s heatwave has led to a record grape harvest and a vintage year for English and Welsh wine, prompting great interest in investment and land opportunities.

“But despite a trend of warming grape-growing seasons, this season has been quite unusual in terms of weather. English and Welsh grape yields are generally quite low and variable by international standards, so we wanted to identify the best places to plant vineyards and improve the sector’s resilience to the UK’s often fickle weather.”

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and published in the Journal of Land Use Science.

Gallery: Experience the harvest in one of these 10 wine regions [EasyVoyage]

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