Susie’s The Food Programme on English wine

It was a fascinating experience putting together my recent BBC Radio 4 documentary The Wine Detectives, on how wine fraud is affecting (and being combatted by) top wine producers and buyers.

Radio is such a brilliant medium for wine. So personal and evocative – almost meditative, in a way. And of course Radio 4 has wonderful content all round so it’s a privilege to be on that platform.

All of which meant I leapt at the chance to present The Food Programme, exploring how the bumper 2018 vintage might prove a watershed moment for English and Welsh wine. The joint hottest summer on record (the fourth warmest year ever, it subsequently proved) gave a record harvest for both sparkling and still wine, with the potential to propel the industry onto a level of scale, quality and recognition that could represent new and exciting territory.

It was a great programme to make. We didn’t shy away from the thorny issues, either, like the risk of oversupply, or pricing, exports, the need to keep reserves – and of course that old chestnut, Brexit.

We had brilliant contributions from the likes of Peter Hall at Breaky Bottom, Brad Greatrix at Nyetimber, Ridgeview’s Tom Surgey, Patrick McGrath of Domaine Evremond/Hatch Mansfield, Frazer Thompson of Chapel Down, Waitrose wine buyer Victoria Mason and Sarah Midgely at Pumpkin College. Thanks to all of them for their time and insights.

Some of the take-out quotes from the programme include Peter Hall’s summary of the 2018 vintage (‘Houston, we have lift off!’) and Patrick McGrath’s purposeful take on Brexit (‘I’m so bored of everyone being pessimistic about it – it’s a massive opportunity, the British will have to go out and wave the flag around the world, we’re a trading nation – we have to be excited and positive for the future.’)

In between, Tom Surgey enthuses about how English wine needs to become ‘part of peoples’ everyday lives’ and Sarah Midgely notes how the 2018 sun ‘makes our lives easier’.

The reaction to the programme has been hugely positive, which is wonderful.

We are big fans of Robert Joseph so it meant a great deal when he wrote on twitter, ‘I loved Susie Barrie’s BBC R4 Food Programme on English wine. One of the very best on the subject I’ve heard.’

Other comments included, ‘brilliant programme’, ‘inspiring’, ‘superb’, ‘great show’, ‘insightful’ and Peter Hall kindly wrote, ‘Excellent programme – she covered so much in 30 minutes with style and grace.’

Thanks to everyone who has tuned in and supported. Also to everyone at Radio 4, most especially my brilliant producer Tom Bonnett. And here’s raising a glass to those hard-working, dedicated wine growers all over the British isles who make this such an exciting scene to document.

[Link to Susie Barrie MW presenting BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme – A Vintage Year for Homegrown Wine]