Will we soon be following the Suffolk Wine Trail?

Will we soon be following the Suffolk Wine Trail?

Go Brazil Wine’s Nicholas Corfe looks at the possible post-brexit future of Suffolk produced wines.

At first glance there would appear to be little in common between the county of Suffolk and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s most southerly state. Certainly, they are very different in size but at national level the UK and Brazil both have their share of political and economic problems  – Brazil’s imminent presidential election, for example, is polarising opinion in that country  – while at a more local level these are two proud, mainly rural regions, set apart from their respective capital cities.

A recent visit to ‘Wine South America’, a trade fair held in the town of Bento Gonçalves, only confirmed our view that the quality of Brazil’s wines has increased immeasurably in the last twenty years. That positive view was shared by many others in our invited group, importers and journalists from as far apart as USA, Chile and Russia, some of who were sampling Brazilian wine for the first time. A further bonus is that the 2018 vintage is widely considered to be one of the best on record, certainly of the last 20 years. It is clear that investments made both in the vineyards and the wineries themselves are partly to explain for recent successes ( in this month’s Decanter magazine alone Brazil has 17 wines scoring 90 or more points ) – but equally notable is the growth of ‘wine tourists’ who visit this part of the country.

Local estimates put the annual number of visitors to the key Vale dos Vinhedos region – a lush and picturesque horseshoe-shaped valley where many of the wineries are located – at 500,000. So, to cope with this demand, wineries have fast been installing new tasting rooms, shops, restaurants and accommodation, or upgrading their current facilities. For such a large country, where shipping costs are high, it is a great boon to have so many paying customers coming to your door; indeed, they now account for around 10% of some wineries’ turnover.

And what relevance could this have for Suffolk?  Well, the county also has its own vineyards and a number of high profile wineries which, in common with English wine-making in general, have enjoyed a resurgence and wider recognition in recent years. As in the south of Brazil, we are making great efforts to attract tourists to this region, with ‘staycationers’ especially being targeted. Even the climate seems intent on doing its bit, as 2018 is forecast to bring in a bumper harvest here too, while global-warming seems set to continue. It may seem fanciful but in a post-Brexit world indigenous English wineries could be very well positioned.

The two regions may be 6,000 miles apart but the challenges – and opportunities – are not so different. Perhaps it won’t be so long before we’re all following the ‘Suffolk Wine Trail’..