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French fizz touted for UK success

French Crémant and Mousseux are well placed to become the next styles to enjoy a breakthrough in the buoyant UK sparkling wine market.

Ben Campbell-Johnston, organiser of the Fizz trade tasting, which takes place in London later this week, noted a “marked increase” in exhibitors from these French regional categories at the 2014 event.

“My feeling is that they could be the next thing to come through,” he predicted. “They have a good price and a good supply.”

Remarking that “most of them tend to be under £10 or in the £10-15 bracket,” Campbell-Johnston maintained: “Some of those Alsace, Burgundy, Jura, Loire and Limoux styles are high quality wines and I think there’s space for them here, especially if they can undercut some of the Proseccos, which seem to be getting more and more expensive.”

While there remains widespread acknowledgment that most of the UK’s sparkling wine growth is currently being driven by Prosecco, other corners of the trade have highlighted the appeal and potential of some of these French styles.

Rebecca Palmer, associate director and buyer at Corney & Barrow, flagged up a loyal following for a Savoyard Mousseux in the merchant’s portfolio. “It continues to be enormously successful, especially with our private customer base,” she reported. “It’s very stable and incredibly consistent: light, fresh, just off-dry and offers consumers a really pleasant choice of bubbles.”

Similarly upbeat about this opportunity that exists for France beyond Champagne, is Matthew Clark’s win purchasing director Simon Jerrome, who asserted: “The key area of interest is going to be French sparkling. France has finally got its head around the great gap between cheap entry level fizz and the top end and is producing some excellent sparkling wines.”

Meanwhile Sébastien Briend, commercial director of Loire-based producer Ackerman told the drinks business: “We are selling more sparkling wine in the UK and really believe that the market for Crémant is taking off.”

For the moment, he conceded, “The market for Crémant is really driven by sommeliers. The big supermarkets do not really have Crémant, but we are seeing really big demand in restaurants and that’s where a new market starts. We really believe that it is the beginning of something.”

With around 50 exhibitors taking part in this year’s Fizz event, including Brazilian and Portuguese producers alongside more established sparkling wine regions, Campbell-Johnston described the show as “a good indicator of who’s interested in this marketplace.”

Despite the headline success of this category in the UK at the moment, he pointed to a shift in the type of sparkling wine being shown in the second year of this event.

“Last year people threw in everything they had, but this year they’re focusing on much more commercial styles,” he summed up.

Among the other exhibitor trends for 2014, Campbell-Johnston noted a “massive increase” in representation from Franciacorta, attributing this to the current push in the UK market by the category’s consorzio.

As the UK’s expanding domestic sparking wine production attracts positive headlines, he also confirmed: “English wine has really taken off”, with 11 estates line up for this year’s event.

For more information about Fizz or to register click here.

A detailed look at the performance and potential for sparkling wine in the UK will appear in November’s issue of the drinks business.

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