Sparkling Wine - Italy and England sparkle

Prosecco and English sparkling continue to perform in the UK market

Nearly unknown five years ago, Prosecco is now the clear star in the UK wine market. The Prosecco story has been widely reported, but is worth re-iterating: around 5 million more bottles are being sold in the UK today versus 5 years ago. A record number of Brits are drinking Prosecco, drinking it more frequently, and for more occasions, than ever before. Prosecco has found a very comfortable niche as an affordable aperitif on restaurant wine lists and in the everyday treat for off-trade occasions. Appreciated for its keen price point and due to its palatable taste it’s established as a wine in its own right rather than as a “poor cousin” of Champagne.

Another star performer in terms of growth, both sales volumes and consumer affinity, is English sparkling wine. Remarkably – unbelievably, perhaps – one in five sparkling wine drinkers, or 4 million people, claim to be drinking English sparkling wine at least once a month. Given that the entire stock of English sparkling wine sold last year was of the order of 1.5 million bottles, this would appear to stretch credibility. Having researched around this finding, which is consistent with our last survey in November 2011, we have concluded that a combination of two factors are at work. The first is simple self-delusion – some people think they are drinking English sparkling more regularly than they actually are. The other is more practical: when English sparkling is being served, it is typically in a larger social group, at a social event, as an aperitif: a user is unlikely to get more than two small glasses. More generally, it is worth noting that while perception and reality don’t always coincide in market research, the data can still tell us a great deal. The fact that so many consumers think they are drinking English sparkling, and saying they have strong affinity for it, speaks volumes about the high levels of brand equity in this sub-category, which will serve English producers well as production starts to catch up with demand.

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The growth of these two sub-categories highlights the emergence of a consumer whose dominant wine style now comes with bubbles in it. These are people who may be on the fringe of the wine category proper, and have found that the lighter, more accessible style of sparkling suits their palate more than heavier, more flavoursome whites, rosés and reds. Given the relative youth and affluence of sparkling wine drinkers in the UK, and the increasing diversity of sparkling wine styles coming on to the market, we predict that sparkling will continue on its impressive growth trajectory for several more years to come, notwithstanding any more onerous economic headwinds.

For more information, please see Wine Intelligence’s latest UK Sparkling Wine report, containing the latest Vinitrac®survey data collected January 2013, category volumes from the IWSR, and Wine Intelligence industry insight.