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Fortified wine sales drop 50% in 10 years

Sales of fortified wine in the UK have more than halved in the past 10 years while the duty paid on them has near quadrupled, figures from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) confirm.

port wine
Sales of Port fell from 8 million litres (over 10 million bottles) in 2005, to 5 million litres (almost 8 million bottles) in 2015 – a drop of 26%

Today, the WSTA has launched a campaign to “save Santa’s Sherry” and urge people to “keep passing the Port” in an effort to give the beleaguered category a boost.

In 2005 over 61 million litres (600,000 hectolitres), the equivalent of just over 82 million bottles, of fortified wines were sold in the UK. In 2015, 26 million litres (260,000 hectolitres), or just over of 35 million bottles, were sold – a drop of 50 million bottles in a decade.

Last year Sherry sales fell to 7 million litres (almost 10 million bottles) compared to 16 million litres (over 22 million bottles) in 2005, more than halving the volume sold in a decade.

It’s a similar story with Port, which has seen sales drop from 8 million litres (over 10 million bottles) in 2005, to 5 million litres (almost 8 million bottles) in 2015 – a drop of 26% in ten years.

Vermouth, however, has seen the biggest slump, despite a recent small scale revival in London, nEW York and Barcelona. In 2015 sales amounted to 12 million litres (over 16 million bottles), compared to 4 million litres in 2015, (just short of 6 million bottles) – a drop of almost two thirds.

The fortified wine category has suffered from falling out of fashion over the years, with many reaching for vodka or cider over fortified wines, according to a You Gov poll.


However changing trends aside, one of the most convincing causes of these punishing declines has been the steady increase of UK alcohol duties, which have quadrupled since 2005.

Since 2007, fortified wine duty has increased by 53%, adding £1 to every bottle of Port and Sherry sold in the UK. In 2008, duty on fortified wine was increased by 18% in one year, adding 32p to a bottle. Almost simultaneously, sales of fortified wine dropped by 32% in 2009.

In fact, as duties have steadily increased, volume sales have steadily declined, until the freeze for duty paid on wine in the March 2015 budget, when volumes stabilised.

“The British continue their enduring love of these unique fortified wines, indeed sales have grown at the premium end of both Port and Sherry,” said Andrew Hawes, managing director of Mentzendorff. “It seems unjust that the British public and fortified wines are being penalised by an outdated and unfair duty regime and therefore we very much support the WSTA’s campaign.”

The UK’s fortified wine industry is one of the most heavily taxed in Europe, with the duty rate for fortified wines 33.3% higher than for still wine and 4% more than sparkling wine. Those drinking fortified wine pay on average £2.78 in duty and a further £1.08 in VAT per bottle, which make up around 59% of every bottle of fortified wine sold.

“Whether it’s the Sherry shared as an aperitif or left out for Santa, a port to accompany the cheese course at the end of Christmas lunch or vermouth shaken or stirred in a classic Martini – these drinks have been enjoyed by the British for centuries,” said Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

“It would be incredibly sad to see the British traditions associated with these drinks, which have been passed down through the generations, disappear.
We are urging people to support the WSTA Campaign to ‘save Santa’s sherry, keep passing the port and value vermouth’ and go out this Christmas and rediscover our top quality fortified wines.

For more on Port’s changing fortunes, and how producers are looking to turn the category around, click here. 

Sales of fortified wines have fallen from 61 million litres in 2005 to 26 million litres in 2015

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