Sparkling wine riding high

Sparkling wine is enjoying unequalled success in the on-trade, with Prosecco the most notable pour chomping at the heels of Champagne. But, as James Lawrence writes, there are plenty of contenders in this tempestuous market.

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Bellini bar Cartizze in Mayfair

It’s no secret that sparkling wine sales have been a great success story in the UK market of late. Over 110 million bottles of bubbly were consumed in Britain last year and off-trade sales rocketed by 20% in the second quarter of 2014.

While this growth shows little sign of abating, the non-Champagne market continues to be dominated by Prosecco, raising the question as to whether there is room for other sparkling wines to expand their market share.

Over the last decade the sparkling wine category has evolved from being a minor player to a serious contender, with global volume sales of Prosecco overtaking Champagne for the first time last year. In the off-trade, sparkling wine sales now command a value in excess of £500 million according to the latest figures from Nielsen, while still wine sales have been in gradual decline since 2009.

Closer analysis, however, reveals a less than balanced market structure. According to Nielsen senior analyst Natasha Kendall, Italian sparkling wine is slowly squeezing out the competition in the off-trade, with almost every other category in volume decline.

Layout 1In the last year, volume sales of Australian and New Zealand sparkling wine in the UK off trade have dipped by 20%, while US sparkling lost 21% of its value in the UK market.

In contrast, Prosecco and Cava now control over 70% of the retail market between them. However, it’s not all doom and gloom for sparkling alternatives to Champagne, Prosecco and Cava. London’s dynamic on-trade scene offers some promising opportunities.

A quick glance across the UK capital reveals a growing number of specialist wine bars, wine-centric gastro pubs and venues specialising in one country or region’s cuisine. Moreover, the general awareness that bubbly doesn’t begin and end with Champagne has never been higher.

Moët-Hennessy recently introduced its Chandon Argentina brand to the UK. Brand manager Maria Ines Pina explains that the company’s aim was to forge a market “sweet spot” between Prosecco and entry-level Champagne. “We have listings in quite diverse restaurants: the D&D London group, the Premium Country Pubs division of Mitchells & Butler and Gaucho, where we will be exploring food pairing options with Chandon Argentina,” she says.

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