WINEMAKERS across Oxfordshire were 'saved' from a cashflow crash by community-spirited drinkers.

Small vineyards across the county were 'kept very busy' during lockdown despite restaurants and bars shutting down and wine tastings put on hold.

Bob Nielsen, owner of Brightwell Vineyard near Wallingford, said he carried on practically 'as normal while the rest of the world panicked'.

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He said: "There have been difficulties in the supply chain but that is it.

"However, we have not stopped at all and sales in farm shops have even increased."

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The winemaker also added that he was 'grateful' for his smart business decisions in the past as he was not running on debt when the Covid-19 crisis hit the country.

Mr Nielsen said: "I was not worried as I am pragmatic.

"For me it is just a few bumps on the road.

"Farmers like myself are always prepared for a big setback but luckily we did not have one."

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Such is also the case for Eileen and David Bell, owners of Hendred Vineyard near Wantage.

Although the couple do not fully rely financially on their vineyard, Dr Bell pointed out that lockdown has 'completely changed' the way they sell their produce.

She explained: "Even though vineyards were allowed to stay open during the pandemic, we decided not to open the shop at all.

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"Instead of our usual tasting/sales sessions on occasional Saturday afternoons we introduced a ‘click and collect’ service that is completely contactless.

"It turned out a lot of people were interested in doing their own research into our wine rather than coming into the vineyard to try it."

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Dr Bell added: "The pandemic really made me aware of what people actually want.

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"We have received great support from the local community who prefer to stock up on wine at a small, independent business like us, rather than buy from the big supermarkets."

The couple have also been receiving more requests for private visits to their vineyard.

Independent wine shops have also seen a major increase in demand for English labels.

Sales of still wine have boomed by 221 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with 2019 according to Emily Silva, head of retail & marketing at The Oxford Wine Company.

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She added: "This is partly due to the fact that we have added quite a few new English still wines to the list as we have seen a big growth in customer demand."

Overall Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) – the industry body which represents wine producers in England and Wales – reported a notable spike in retail sales of home wines over the last few months and a boom in online sales as 'wine tourists' were stuck at their homes.