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Nyetimber boosts investment in Japan amid ‘stabilisation’

English sparkling wine producer Nyetimber is upping its investment in Japan despite the market downturn witnessed in 2023. The brand’s head of international sales tells db what is motivating the push.

Nyetimber boosts investment in Japan amid 'stabilisation'

Sparkling wine experienced a boom during the pandemic. No longer was popping a bottle considered just an activity for special occasions, and bubbly brands have benefitted, with more interest from on-trade venues as well as retailers on a global scale.

Japan was no exception. Karl Thogersen, head of sales – international at Nyetimber, says that in recent years we are “starting to see investments from major traditional method sparkling wine brands really coming in strongly”, namely Champagne, which has a huge market in the country.

Nyetimber has been present in the Japanese market for some 14 years, Japan being one of the first international markets the English producer stepped into. “It’s a market that, in the early days, really saw the potential for English sparkling wine,” he says.

Since then, the brand has experienced a slow evolution. More than a decade on, “curiosity” is still the major driver of interest in English wine. “We always say ‘Nyetimber, product of England’; that’s the thing that people react to first,” Thogersen says.

In on-trade venues, Nyetimber pushes for its origin to be recognised. The goal is to “separate yourselves a little bit on the wine list”, he says, meaning wines should be listed by country, rather than divided between Champagne and “other sparkling wines”.

The brand was boosted during the pandemic due to the sparkling wine push. However, the economic downturn of 2023 caused challenges for brands throughout the Asian market. “Last year was maybe not the best year historically if you look at Asia in general for sparkling wine,” he says.

Thogersen describes 2023 as a “trend break” year following “those very boosted years over the pandemic”. But he’s not worried, arguing it’s just a “stabilisation” of the market following a spike in demand.

“Already the start of this year has been very very positive so far”, allaying any concerns of ongoing challenges. And in response to market stabilisation, Nyetimber is upping its investment in Japan to protect its interests and boost business.

“We position ourselves moving forward and continue to invest, and continues to be close to the market,” he says. “Our strategy is the same as how we originally built the brand in the UK”, meaning high-end on-trade segments, working with sommeliers and chefs to allow education to trickle down to the consumer.

“We have a reputation, I think, not necessarily always among the consumers, but especially among the trade,” he says, and the brand has always “invested a lot in having feet on the streets”.

Trade focus

Nyetimber will be the only English sparkling wine present at ProWine Tokyo this year, which kicks off this week.

Ahead of the fair, the English brand is hosting an event at the Edition Hotel in Toranomon introducing Nyetimber Tillington Single Vineyard 2014 to Japan — the “first time the market can access our single vineyard style”.

The Edition Hotel will also be running a promotion for Nyetmber, pouring all seven styles by the glass across the month of April.

Thogersen says the producer is looking at new partnerships in Japan, though he is unable to share more detail at this early stage. “We have a number of key markets around the world, but Japan is definitely one of them,” he says.

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