Thursday, 9 June 2011

Welsh Wine Week Reflections

So a week has passed since we visited the Parva Farm Vineyard in Tintern to see at first hand the excellent work undertaken by Colin and Judith in creating a product, in their Tintern Parva Bacchus 2009 dry white, that is an award winning wine.

Judith is also trying to advance the concept of 'Welsh Wine Week' to a wider audience and to this end we were pleased that the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food (& European Programmes), Alun Davies, was able to come along and see what the vineyard was doing and see how the Welsh Government can help further.

We were also joined by the local Assembly Member and Conservative Leadership Contender, Nick Ramsay AM - who is a strong supporter of the industry in Wales and a member of the Assembly's All Party Group on Beer and the Pub.

In July 2010, an Assembly Committee Inquiry into 'The Wine, Beer, Cider and Spirit Industries' made several recommendations with an impact on the Wine industry in Wales, namely that:

  • The Welsh Government should examine examples elsewhere, such as the New Zealand wine industry where massive growth has been achieved over a short period of time, to learn lessons about how the sector in Wales can be developed to its full potential. 
  • Specific guidance should be issued to local planning authorities, clarifying the manner in which the planning system should operate with regard to vineyards, brewers and pubs to ensure consistent application of guidelines throughout Wales.
  • The Welsh Government should lobby the UK government to introduce a progressive duty for wine producers so as to give a boost to the development of small vineyards. 
  • The Welsh Government should draw up a distinct strategy for promoting and marketing the wine, beer, cider and spirits sectors. As well as cross-cutting activities, the strategy should include action plans tailored specifically to the needs of each sector. This strategy should link into the Welsh Government’s strategies for food promotion and for tourism.
  •  The Welsh Government should work with industry to investigate the benefits of introducing a recognisable emblem indicating that produce is a drink of Welsh origin. Combined with a campaign promoting the quality of Welsh drink produce, the emblem should become a guarantee of both origin and quality.
  •  The Welsh Government should improve its own expertise and capacity to support the Welsh wine, beer, cider and spirit industries by appointing an official within its Food and Market Development Division with dedicated responsibility for developing and promoting the sectors in Wales.
  • The Welsh Government should establish a forum bringing together producers and associations in the wine, beer and cider sectors to exchange ideas and identify priorities for collaborative working within their respective sectors.
So this was an opportunity to ask the Deputy Minister for his thoughts on those issues, as the previous Minister, Elin Jones had not been totally convinced of the need for these items to be addressed.

The Deputy Minister took on board the concerns of Judith and Colin, and those raised by myself, and has promised to follow up on these matters. He is this week meeting with the authors of the Welsh Government's Food Strategy which is being prepared, to see how the drinks industry can be properly represented in that strategy.

He has asked that we make written representations to him on these issues, which I will do, and I will keep you informed of the outcomes.

So it's a case of wait and see at the moment. The moves so far have been positive, and we can only hope that this is a change in thinking at the highest level which will see greater support for the industry in Wales. 

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