Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss has visited Bolney Wine Estate to celebrate its successful harvest which it hopes to double in the next five years.
As well as enjoying a tour of the estate on Monday (October 26) Ms Truss discovered how new 3D Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) maps, produced by the Environment Agency, will revolutionise the wine industry.
Claimed to be the biggest government data giveaway ever, the new equipment will be able growers to pinpoint the best location to plant vines that will thrive.
After Ms Truss’ visit, Samantha Linter, managing director of the estate, said: “It was brilliant to have her come down. It’s a good opportunity to show Bolney and talk about the issues we have.”
Ms Linter explained she was able to tell Ms Truss how she would use the new technology to help the estate with its aim to double production in the next four to five years, then double again in the next five to ten years.
She also spoke to her about the importance of ensuring houses are not build over prime agricultural land and Ms Truss assured her that she was committed to ensuring these fields were protected.
Ms Linter added: ”It’s nice to have a DEFRA minister looking to see how these industries can build successfully.
“Bolney Wine Estate has been around for 40 years. It started in ‘72 as a family business and we’ve spent the last 40 years gradually learning through mistakes and we’ve learnt how to do it right.”
The estate began with five acres and now has 40.
“We are slowly and solidly increasing the quality of what we do, learning our craft really well,” said Ms Linter.
3D Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) maps – containing 11-terabytes of information, is the latest set of data to be released as part of #OpenDefra.
Ms Truss said Bolney Wine Estate was chosen for her visit because it is an ‘example’ to other vineyards on how to expand successfully.
She said: “It’s been a fantastic opportunity. I’m delighted to hear they want to double productions. It’s such a leading vineyard.
“Samantha’s a really good example of what started as a bit of a passion and is now a proper industry doing really well.
“There has never been a more exciting time for the English wine industry. Production has doubled in the last five years, chalking up an estimated retail value of £82 million, and by using cutting-edge technology such as precision viticulture our hard-working grape growers are now producing some of the best wine in the world.
“By opening up our extensive data vaults we will further grow this important industry. LIDAR is just the beginning of the biggest government data giveaway the country has ever seen, giving the industry the tools it needs to grow.”
Experts estimate that an additional 75,000 acres of land is prime for grape growing in this country and could be used to create more internationally acclaimed English wines.