On Monday, 29th May, 2017, the world renowned International Wine Challenge announced that West Street Vineyard was the only East Anglian Gold Medal winner in the Cellar Door category – the first time this competition has run. Jane Mohan, Partner in West Street, said “This award celebrates all that West Street is about. It is for a great restaurant experience, wine tasting and vineyard ambience. I cannot be more delighted as it says a lot about the crew who have worked really hard to win this accolade - it’s a total team effort which makes it more special,” continued Mohan.
Only six of these gold medals have been awarded across the whole of the UK, by the one of the most respected wine organisations in the World. The award was independently assessed by Visit England who judged vineyards countrywide in a mystery shopping exercise. The assessors were looking to test out the whole hospitality experience from the wine tasting to the food offering. It is hoped that many more vineyards will go for gold as Visit England recognises that Wine Tourism could be a major area of growth in tourism in the future. There are over a million vines being planted in the UK this year alone and it is hoped that England will double its wine production by 2020. If the growth continues at the current rate “Eno tourism” will be a leisure activity not exclusive to main land Europe but a must do at weekends for oenophiles or just ordinary wine lovers and families who want to try locally produced wines in their local area preferably with good food. Wine lovers in the New World’s wine regions from the Cape in South Africa, Margaret River in Australia through to Mendoza in Argentina have been enjoying this flavour of wine hospitality for the last decade at least. Even the French, have woken up to the importance of wine tourism as the opening last year of the Cite de Vin in Bordeaux costing an eye watering £62 million demonstrates.
Rural tourism is worth around £16bn per annum to the UK economy much of it based on a food and drink and although wine tourism is a tiny percentage , it is growing fast with visitor numbers to vineyards up across the country. West Street has seen a sea change in the perception of English wines amongst its visitors since it opened its doors in 2013. The local wines are no longer viewed with suspicion but a by a genuine desire by guests to fly the flag for England and try this delicious product. The issue is now more lack of supply to meet the ever-growing demand to buy English.
There is a growing UK trend across all food and beverage tourism as the growth in small batch premium gin and craft brewing over the last few years has demonstrated now it’s the turn for English wines as they continue to build a strong reputation for world class sparkling wines and more recently for white wines based on the grape variety Bacchus which is the equivalent of an English Sauvignon Blanc. The future looks bright for English wines and Vineyard tourism.