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China join the long list of countries selling English sparkling wine as the number of importing nations grows by a third by GARETH DAVIES03/01/2017  

China, Italy and Spain have joined a long list of countries selling English sparkling wine as the number of importing nations has grown by a third in the last year.

Chalky soils, south-facing slopes and warm temperatures mean conditions are ideal for producing wine in parts of Britain and the industry now boasts sales of around £100million a year.

Producers have also secured contracts with some of the world's most exclusive restaurants and hotels such as the Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the Ritz in London, while the UK collected 120 medals at two prestigious awards. 

Workers pick grapes from the vine in West Chiltington, West Sussex, England where business is booming
Staff picking grapes from the vineyard at the Ridgeview Estate Winery in Sussex

British companies picked up the gongs at this year's International Wine Challenge, the International Wine and Spirit Competition and Decanter World Wine Awards, the industry said.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said that with major producers on track to deliver a 10-fold increase in exports: 'Our vintners are set for huge success in 2017 with wineries growing and more bottles on supermarket shelves.'

Growing demand has led to land under vine doubling over the last 10 years, with 30 vineyards opening in the last two years alone.

At the Bolney Vineyard, sales are increasing and it is exporting wines around the world

Two vintage bottles of sparkling wine are displayed at the Nyetimber vineyard in West Sussex

The Nyetimber Vineyard in Sussex - part of the rapidly flourishing industry on the south coast

It has also sparked interest from champagne producers in France with Taittinger buying land in Kent in 2015.

English Wine Producers chairman Simon Robinson said: 'It's boom time for English wines.

'The growing trend on the high street shows the retailers have really got behind them and the wine consumers of Britain are responding.

'Our export sales are also on the up, with new markets opening up around the world. 

'We're looking forward to even more wines coming on to the market next year.

Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) chief executive Miles Beale said: 'As we always expected, the word has spread and English wine is now internationally recognised as a premium quality product and very much in demand.

'The WSTA were proud to lead the first ever English wine round table in March 2016 when the major producers committed to ambitious targets of increasing exports tenfold to 2.5million bottles by 2020. 

'It is fantastic to hear we are well on our way to achieving this.'

New markets for English sparkling wine in 2016 included Austria, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, China, Italy, Ivory Coast, Spain, Taiwan and UEA, according to English Wine Producers.

These were in addition to existing markets of Canada, Estonia, Ireland, Macau, South Africa, Switzerland, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Japan, Sweden and the US.