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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Conal Gregory MW

Ten MPs and peers from the 186-member All Party Parliamentary Wine Group recently visited Tenterden vineyards in Kent, home to New Wave Wines, the UK's largest wine producer, to pick grapes and learn at first hand the problems facing English and Welsh wine producers. Five Labour and four Conservative members, and one crossbencher (five MPs, five peers) discussed the progressive duty arrangement recently implemented for small breweries and whether a similar scheme could be effected for UK vineyards. They asked how easy it was to establish a vineyard in terms of capital and experience with no grant or subsidy. The marketing of English and Welsh wines was also discussed. The surcharge on UK-produced sparkling wines, described as an unfair tax on the bubble', and the growth in cross-border shopping were raised by Jo Williamson, the WSA chairman, and Chris Searle, chairman of the WSA's Political Committee. Frazer Thompson and Karl Koenen from New Wave Wines organised the grape picking. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP, co-chairman of the Parliamentary Group, said that, with 800 hectares of vineyards and employing 2,000 people, the English and Welsh wine industry could be an untapped opportunity for many farmers, if they were given the right advice and financial support'.