VINEYARDS in Sussex are helping to make the UK one of the fastest expanding wine regions in the world.

New figures from Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) have revealed three million vines have been planted this year alone – the biggest planting on record and nearly double the number of vines planted last year.

Winemakers from Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire have played a vital role in this success, with a bumper harvest seeing more than 750 hectares of vines planted across Sussex this year – 60 per cent of the plantings in the UK.

The wine industry is becoming one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in the UK, with this year’s planting contributing to an additional 690 hectares of vineyard and a 24 per cent increase in land under vine.

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “The UK’s wine industry has boomed in the last few years and shows no sign of slowing down with vineyards in Sussex and the rest of the South of England playing a huge role in this success. The South of England has been regularly commended for its high quality wine.

Earlier this year the region took home three coveted Best in Show Decanter Medals within the 2019 Decanter World Wine Awards, with three of the top 50 wines globally coming from West Sussex and Kent.

2018 was also particularly successful year for wine from the South of England, with Sussex winemaker Nyetimber getting the International Winemaker of the Year Award – the first time it has been granted to a winemaker outside the Champagne region.

Simon Robinson, chairman of WineGB, said: “Our wine industry is seeing fantastic growth, with year-on-year increases in plantings, production and sales. This is spurring expansion in other key areas such as employment, tourism and of course exports.

“This is a thriving British industry of which we can be justifiably proud.”

The three million vines planted this year are nearly double the number last year (1.6 million vines) and three times the one million in 2017, according to Wine GB. The vineyards in the East and West of Sussex are the largest producers of English wine followed closely by Kent, Hampshire and Surrey.

Following last year’s bountiful summer harvest, 15.6 million bottles of wine were produced – far exceeding average production figures of 5.5 million bottles. In the UK there are more than 500 commercial vineyards across just 2888 hectares of land (2018 figures).

Sales of English wine have increased by 31 per cent between 2015 and 2017, and in 2018 alone, 2.6 million bottles of English wine were sold – equal to an increase of sales by 186 per cent.