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JD Wetherspoon to remove Champagne from its bars ahead of Brexit, but not Prosecco

British pub giant JD Wetherspoon is ditching Champagne and swapping it out for English sparkling wine in the run-up to Brexit.

JD Wetherspoon founder chairman Tim Martin (Photo: Wetherspoon)

It will also sell fewer wheat beers from France and Germany, replacing them with those made by both UK and non-EU producers across its 880 pubs from Monday 9 July.

Instead of French fizz, Wetherspoon will sell brut and rosé sparkling wines made by Denbies winery in Dorking, Surrey, as well as Hardys’ sparkling Pinot Chardonnay from Australia.

However, a spokesperson for the pub told the drinks business that there was “no move on Prosecco.”

As well as including more UK beers in traditional styles and categories, Tim Martin’s pub group with also replace German brand Erdinger’s alcohol-free beer with a no ABV version made by Suffolk-based brewer Adnams.

Wetherspoon will continue to serve Kopparberg cider from Sweden, which recently confirmed it will produce its cider in the UK post-brexit.

Martin — a vocal eurosceptic — said the pub chain is reviewing all of its products in a company-wise reshuffle which could take up to two years, something he hopes will make the business “more competitive”.

The drinks boss said it makes sense to invest in UK drinks products now because of the EU’s “protectionist” tariff systems, which he claims are “widely misunderstood”.

“It imposes tariffs on the 93 per cent of the world that is not in the EU, keeping prices high for UK consumers.”

“Tariffs are imposed on wine from Australia, New Zealand and the US, and on more than 12,000 other products.

“The products we are now introducing are at lower prices than the EU products they are replacing.”

Martin said the chain is likely to make further investment in non-EU products once the UK reaches its Brexit cut-off date on 29 March, but European beers, wines and spirits won’t disappear from the menu altogether, or at least not yet.

Martin said he will “honour existing contracts with EU suppliers, some of which have several years to run.”

Reaction to the pub boss’ decision has been mixed.

Nigel Farage, former UKIP leader and the public face of Leave.EU, praised Martin’s decision ahead of what some are calling the UK economy’s anticipated “Brexit Boom” as a result of retailers turning more to home-grown products.

Others were quick to point out that Martin’s statement made no mention of Prosecco, which is routinely advertised in the pub’s food and drink offers and is more widely drunk across the UK than any other sparkling wine.

Many also argued that there was nothing preventing the pub chain from dealing with UK producers prior to the referendum.

Then of course, there was the question everyone was secretly thinking:

Interestingly, Champagne as a category has been struggling in recent years in the UK against cheaper products such as Prosecco. Brits drank one third of the world’s Italian fizz in 2016, but sales figures released ahead of international wine fair ProWein in April this year show that the traditional-method French sparkler is losing ground with consumers.

While exports of Champagne to markets outside Europe were in growth, shipments to countries within Europe were in slight decline during 2017, particularly the UK market which saw an 11% drop in volume, while sales of Champagne in its domestic market were down 2.5%.

A spokesperson declined to comment on Wetherspoon’s sales figures for Prosecco and Champagne.

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