COUNTY NEWS: MP flies the flag for Sussex wines overseas

MP Nus Ghani (left) meets owner Joyce Tay during a recent visit to Bluebell Vineyard Estates

MP Nus Ghani (left) meets owner Joyce Tay during a recent visit to Bluebell Vineyard Estates

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Wealden MP Nusrat Ghani has this week backed Sussex vineyards as she introduced a new law in the House of Commons.

The law seeks to ensure that British embassies and consulates overseas purchase and serve English wines and sparkling wines at events and functions.

Wealden is home to more than a dozen vineyards and wine producers, and Ms Ghani wants the Diplomatic Service to take a more literal approach to the promotion of British exports, by serving English produce itself.

In 2015, five million bottles of English wine were produced, and there are now 133 wineries and more than 500 vineyards dotted across the English countryside.

In her speech in Parliament to introduce the Bill, Ms Ghani mentioned three of those located in Wealden – Bluebell Vineyard Estates, Fox & Fox Vineyards and Downsview Vineyard.

Bluebell Vineyard has more than doubled in size since opening in 2005, and now has 70 acres under-vine, and last year it won 16 medals at international wine competitions.

Ms Ghani posed a challenge to British embassies to sell Britain through its produce, saying in her speech, “In a post-Brexit world, we must do all we can to get behind industries that show the sort of potential of our wine industry. And what better way to do that than to give the world a taste by serving UK produced wine and sparkling wine in our 268 embassies, High Commissions and Consulates around the world. What could be a more appropriate setting to promote English wine than the famed ‘ambassador’s reception’?”

Referring to the successful passage of the Article 50 Bill through Parliament, she cited this Bill as one of the first “Brexit bills”, saying, “As we leave the EU, we must grasp every opportunity to find new markets for our products around the world and to be imaginative in supporting and promoting them.”

Commenting after the Bill was approved for introduction by the House of Commons without opposition, Ms Ghani said, “Our embassies abroad are an extension and projection of the British brand. Showing support for a high quality and high profile indigenous product such as English wine will demonstrate a confidence in our country and a belief in the opportunities ahead of us.

“Here in Sussex, and particularly in Wealden, we have some of the most successful and enterprising vineyards in the country, producing wine that rivals the very best of France and Spain. We have a fantastic opportunity to promote its reputation around the world, and we must do that on behalf of the brilliant winemakers of Wealden.

“Over the next two years British diplomats will be carrying out the most important negotiations ever embarked on, as we leave the EU – what better way to help oil the wheels of those negotiations in Berlin, Rome and Madrid than with a little English sparkle?”