Wine expert Jancis Robinson MW has appealed to Defra to reinstate its funding for the WineSkills Programme for UK wine producers, run at the UK’s centre for wine education, Plumpton College in Sussex.

Speaking at the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium, which is being held this week in Brighton, England, and following the opening address by George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Defra, Robinson said: “Plumpton College’s WineSkills Programme has had to be abandoned because Defra has rescinded its funding of it – at the very time when the English wine industry has reached new heights of accomplishment and fame.

“For some mysterious reason, Defra has failed to renew its membership of the OIV, the world’s massively important International Organisation of Vine and Wine, whose president, Monika Christmann, has taken time off to be here. That means that Plumpton can’t participate in international research projects, leaving it marginalised from the world of wine adademe.

“And it also means that the British in general and English producers in particular have no voice whatsoever in international wine negotiations and regulation. Holland, Belgium, Sweden, India and Azerbaijahn are all members, whereas it would only take a small, five figure sum for the UK to rejoin the OIV. This is surely a great shame and it would be only sensible to remedy this.”

This is the first time the ICCWS has been held in Britain and it reflects the growing reputation of the UK as a quality wine producing region, as noted by George Eustice MP in his opening address. He opened the first day of the three-day event by welcoming the 600 wine producers, marketers and media to Brighton.

Eustice said: “I am delighted that for the first time ever, this significant marker in the international wine community’s calendar is being held in England; the timing couldn’t be better – with sales reaching a record-breaking £100 million in 2015 and production expected to double by 2020, there has never been a more exciting time for the English wine industry.

“Our hard-working viticulturists are producing some of the finest cool climate wines in the world, and our goal is to back their ambition by flying the flag for British produce internationally and exploiting the huge potential for increasing exports.”