Minister attacked for "shameful" withdrawal of wine skills funding

Delivering the opening keynote speech at the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium 2016 in Brighton today (26 May), wine critic Jancis Robinson slammed Defra's withdrawal of funding for a skills programme for the English wine industry, and its failure to retain Britain's membership of an international wine body.

Image: ICCWS2016
Image: ICCWS2016

Addressing farming minister George Eustice, who formally opened the symposium attended by around 500 UK and international wine professionals, Robinson said that while nearby Plumpton College has established itself as "first class training establishment" for the growing industry, "one shameful development is that its Wine Skills Programme has had to be abandoned because Defra has rescinded its funding of it".

She added: "For some mysterious reason, Defra has failed to renew its membership of the world's massively important International Organisation of Vine and Wine. Cost of membership is just a five-figure sum. This means that Plumpton can't participate in international research projects, leaving it marginalised from the world of wine academe. And it also means that the British, and the English wine producers in particular, have no voice whatsoever in international wine negotiations and regulation.

"These two small steps for Defra really would make a major difference in terms of continuing the admirable progress in this small industry."

Earlier, Eustice said: "I'm delighted that for the first time ever, this significant marker in the international wine community's calendar is being held in England. The timing couldn't be better - with sales reaching a record-breaking £100 million in 2015 and production expected to double by 2020, there has never been a more exciting time for the English wine industry."

The symposium continues until Saturday. Full report in the next Hortculture Week magazine. 

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