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Curiosity and discovery in sparkling wine category stimulated by pandemic

The sparkling wine category faired better than expected during the last two years, despite fears that the lack of on-trade would devastate the category. According to experts, the pandemic even made consumers more curious when it came to fizz. db investigates.

Covid-19 pushes discovery in sparkling wine consumers

Sparkling wine did see a dip in 2020, with global volume down by 4.5% after posting growth of 1.9% the previous year, according to data from IWSR.

But the fallout was not as severe as had initially been feared, with the lack of celebrations and on-premise drinking at risk of doing significant damage.

Indeed, the pandemic even opened up new opportunities for the sparkling category, with a shift in consumer sentiment resulting in fizz becoming more popular for day-to-day consumption, and increased curiosity to try new styles.

“We’re seeing the Sparkling category really bounce back in earnest with sales across the category up 30% year on year, after an understandable Covid dip,” said Rob Cooke, chief commercial officer at Majestic.

“Our customers are really branching out too – with sales of New World Sparkling, Crémant and English fizz all exceeding expectations. This is really being driven by customer discovery.”

Online sales of English sparkling wine rose during the pandemic, and now make up 50% of total sales, according to Wine GB.

Sales of English wine grew 30% in 2020, with 2021 figures set to be even more positive.

“We won’t have our official industry data ready for another month or so when the results of the WineGB Industry Survey are released. However we are receiving various pieces of feedback which suggest a big year for sales in 2021 even compared to the 30% growth in 2020,” CEO of Wine GB Simon Thorpe said.

“Sales of sparkling wines through the supermarkets look very positive at circa 50% growth, and the direct to consumer channel also looks to have continued its sharp rise in 2021 with vineyards reporting extremely high visitor numbers and online sales.”

For French producers, Crémant sales have also been stimulated in recent years.

David Jaegle, world export director for Alsace winery Cave de Ribeauvillé, believes that the pandemic has helped educate consumers about the quality of Crémant wines.

“The pandemic has made Crémant much more trendy than before,” he says. “Wine lovers had enough time during lockdown to taste Crémant and to realise that taste and delicateness is impressive for this kind of price.”

Indeed, Crémant now makes up approximately 44% of the winery’s sales, with the US, Canada, UK, Denmark and Germany the key export markets for Cave de Ribeauvillé.

“I’m sure that Crémant d’Alsace will be the trend in wine sales in the near future. Quality of process is renowned at last,” Jaegle adds.

There has been an explosion in the Champagne market in recent times – with prices up 68% over the last 3 years and more than half of those gains (53%) coming since January 2021. db talks to Bordeaux Index about what is fuelling this growth. Read more on that here.

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