Life beyond Prosecco

21 March, 2017

Britons are celebrating far too much, according to the latest sparkling wine data. A record 40 million bottles flew off the shelves in UK shops in the 12-week festive period of 2016, according to the Wine & Spirit Trade Association’s Q1 market report – a 12% increase on 2015.

Prosecco is still one of the key drivers, although sparkling wine sales in general are predicted to rise by 18% between 2016 and 2020, according to Vinexpo’s recently released Global Wine Market report.

WHAT SHOULD RETAILERS BE LOOKING AT?

Prosecco sales have increased 25% in value and volume since June 2016 (IRI), so should retailers find more space for this drink?

Andrew Steel, director of fine wine importer Connoisseur Wines, says: “Pinot Grigio and Prosecco are two big brands from Italy and they are literally swapping positions, so maybe this is something retailers should look at in terms of space.”

Smaller formats may also be worth considering, says Pete Fairclough, brand manager at Kingsland Drinks. “The small- format trend is showing growth throughout the wine category and sparkling minis have grown by 56% year on year in volume (IRI, year to end December 2016), driven by Prosecco,” he says.

Retailers are also seeing success with premium options. At London wine merchant Jeroboams, wine director Peter Mitchell MW says: “The sparkling market is still dominated by Prosecco, although we have been very encouraged by the strong sales of more premium styles, which we will continue to grow.”

He also reports strong sales for sparkling options from New Zealand, France and England.

“There are some interesting and far more characterful alternatives to cheaper Prosecco out there – the sparkling Piquepoul we introduced is an example of this and I have recently tasted delicious curiosities such as sparkling Grillo from Sicily.”

Nick Thatham MW, wine development manager at Continental Wine & Food, agrees that growth is likely to come from alternatives to Prosecco.

“This means much more effort will have to be made in both off and on-trades to encourage and meet any new demand from consumers wanting to move on from Prosecco.”

Mark Kears, managing director at Les Grands Chais de France, tips crémant as the next big thing in sparkling wines in the UK.

“It makes sense as they are virtually unknown in this market and provide a premium quality at a value price tag.

“Prosecco has done a great job in the UK, but undoubtedly Prosecco fatigue will set in with consumers at some point and they will, as they are starting to do already, look elsewhere for their sparkling fix and experiment with other regions and brands.”

ENGLISH FIZZ

English sparkling wine sales are also soaring according to Jascots Wine Merchants. Its data shows sales rose by 24% in 2016, overtaking Spain to become the third most-listed sparkling wine producer after Champagne and Italy.

Waitrose’s English wine buyer, Rebecca Hull MW, says: “We added 20 new wines to our range last year, bringing our total to nearly 115. English sparkling wines had a spectacular year in 2016, growing more than 50% in volume from an already strong base.”

Producers are also increasingly working with multiples. Hush Heath Estate in Kent created a special cuvée of its Balfour 1503 wine for the Co-op, while it also recently produced an own-label English sparkling wine for 900 Tesco stores.

Meanwhile, Steel at Connoisseur Estates says independent retailers now want at least one English option in their sparkling ranges. It recently added English sparkling producer Woodchurch Wine from Kent to its portfolio.

“English sparkling is now definitely competing on quality. It isn’t a cheap option but it is sitting at the right price. You can get a vintage English sparkling for £29 and you can’t buy a vintage Champagne at that price.”

It’s a strong sector, but what can independents do to boost sales? Bladon, marketing

Camilla director at Jenkyn Place, says retailers should embrace the range of styles, such as Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noirs, “which don’t always get a lot of shelf space”. She also recommends inviting winemakers in as much as possible.

Ian Kellett, managing director of Hambledon Vineyard, says: “The UK industry is becoming increasingly sophisticated in its generic marketing and platforms such as English Wine Week offer excellent promotional opportunities for extending sales.”

Jeroboams plans to add smaller up-and-coming producers this year. Mitchell says: “For me, English sparkling is a key place independent retailers should be focusing, as there are some really good smaller producers who can provide quality, a back-story and a point of difference to the offering in the multiples.”

WHAT’S NEXT IN 2017?

With sparkling sales soaring, it’s inevitable that 2017 will bring a raft of activity. Many English sparkling producers are investing heavily. Jenkyn Place plans to release its 2013 vintage this year with new branding, and Hush Heath is looking to increase its winery to tap into “huge growth” in wine tourism in the south east.

Meanwhile, Taittinger is gearing up to plant its first vines in its Kent vineyard. It will become the first Champagne house to do so.

Others, such as importer Buckingham Schenk, say they are looking at Italian sparkling alternatives to Prosecco.




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Richard Hemming MW: beware inverse snobbery

Few things can bring communal pleasure so intimately as wine. Apart from a hot tub, perhaps. Sport can trigger mass jubilation, film gives us shared empathy, but wine has a nigh-unique ability to bestow conviviality among us through a shared bottle – which makes it especially galling that we spend so much time divided over it.

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