From rebounding Champagne exports to the growing popularity of relatively new kid rosé Prosecco, it turns out there’s a sparkling wine for pretty much every occasion – and every price point. According to trade organisation Comité Champagne, total shipments of Champagne in 2021 rose to 322 million bottles, an increase of 32% over 2020. Early indications from the Comité suggest the UK received an estimated 29 million of those bottles – up from 21.3 million in 2020 and 27.2 million in 2019.
Meanwhile, producers have reported a “stronger than expected” performance for rosé Prosecco, a style that launched in November 2020. And retailers have found lockdown-inspired adventurers are keen on crémant.
“Historically, sparkling wine and Champagne was seen as the drink for celebrations and gatherings, but since it has become more accessible with development of more affordable own-label products, and also Prosecco becoming widely available, it is now in consumers’ everyday repertoire,” says Jo Taylorson, head of marketing and product management, Kingsland Drinks.
She says the bigger brands still have their place in celebrations, gatherings and gifting occasions. “Champagne is definitely a feel-good product and now that the country is pretty much back to normal, the famous fizz is back as an integral part of parties and get-togethers,” she adds.
In fact, the pandemic didn’t much affect Kingsland’s Champagne sales, according to Taylorson. “Our business is very much at the value end of the market, and we actually saw a reasonable increase in sales last year with our Champagne brands in retail,” she says.
Evidence of consumers in search of value could also be found in post-Christmas sales data from both Sainsbury’s and Berry Bros & Rudd. In a Q3 trading update for the 16 weeks to January 8, Sainsbury’s reported “record sales” for its Taste the Difference Champagne and sparkling wine, while Christmas trading results for fine wine merchant Berry Bros & Rudd revealed that its Own Selection Champagne Mailly Grand Cru saw sales increase by 62% year on year.
Indie retailer Phil Innes from Loki Wine also confirms value is a watchword and when it comes to Champagne, he says his customers are “moving away from the bigger names” with “availability and price” driving demand. He singles out Pierre Paillard – a Champagne focused on the Bouzy terroir and priced just under £40 for the non-vintage.
He also says crémant continues to be popular and “get a lot of attention” pointing to products from Jura, Alsace and Loire. “Crémant drinkers are coming from both Champagne and Prosecco,” he says, as consumers continue to be more adventurous in their selections.
Kingsland’s Taylorson also highlights crémant. She says Crémant de Loire has seen growth in recent years “as an excellent value alternative to Champagne”, singling out the company’s Prince Alexandre Crémant de Loire, which carries a price tag of £12.99 in Waitrose.
PROSECCO STILL A GO-GO
One of the biggest winners in the sparkling wine camp, however, has to be Prosecco DOC rosé, which also plays into the added value mindset.
Taylorson says it has “proved incredibly popular among British consumers and early performance has been stronger than we expected”.
She describes rosé Prosecco as a welcome addition to supermarket shelves. “It has really brought excitement to the Prosecco, sparkling wine and rosé categories,” she adds.
“We were one of the first wine suppliers to bring Prosecco DOC rosé into the UK,” says Taylorson, pointing to the company’s Corte Molino Prosecco rosé, which sells for £8.50 in the Co-op.
“In our experience, the ratio of Prosecco DOC rosé being sold versus the same brand white Prosecco counterpart is approximately 15%. When we consider our typical ratio of rosé Champagne versus the same brand, Brut NV is approximately 8-10%, it seems that Prosecco rosé is off to a very strong start with room still to grow.”
Elsewhere, Kim Wilson, managing director of North South Wines, says her key sparkling brand, La Gioiosa Prosecco, performed well over the Christmas period.
“Our own internal figures show that in 2021 sales increased by 51% compared to the previous year,” she says. “We have concentrated on building brand awareness over the past two years, digitally and in stores. We now have over 10,000 followers on social media that has been built only in the last 12 months.”
Wilson is confident 2022 will be a big year for sparkling. “We will launch our first La Gioiosa limited edition this spring, in time for the Queen’s Jubilee,” she adds. “It has been made in collaboration with lauded British designer Yvonne Ellen, and we feel it will help retailers with getting a bit of magic, excitement and theatre on shelves.” If fizz can’t create magic, excitement and theatre, then nothing can.