Brexit threat to sparkling wine sales boom

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

In demand: more than 26m bottles of sparkling wine and Champagne were sold in the on-trade in 2017
In demand: more than 26m bottles of sparkling wine and Champagne were sold in the on-trade in 2017

Related tags Sparkling wine Chardonnay

The UK’s sparkling wine sector has seen sales almost double in the last five years, according to the latest statistics from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

The WSTA’s market report, published last week, revealed that since 2013, the UK has seen sales of sparkling wine increase by 89% in volume and 206% by value.

Although sales are primarily being driven by the off-trade (120.24m bottles of sparkling wine and 15.14m bottles of Champagne were sold last year) more than 26m bottles of sparkling wine and Champagne were sold in the on-trade in 2017, showing a growing appetite for fizz among UK pubgoers.    

In total, UK consumers bought the equivalent of over 140m bottles of all sparkling wine worth in excess of £1.3bn in 2017, a 12% increase on volume sales from 2016. When added together with sales of Champagne, the fizz market in the UK is now worth more than £2bn.

Concern over Brexit

However, concerns remain within the sector over the possible impact that Brexit and lower yields may cause for supplies of imported sparkling wines in 2018.

WSTA research and insights manager Ciaran Myles said: “It’s safe to say there is no bursting of any bubbles according to sales figures for sparkling wine, although they are not quite as lofty as they once were.

“Reports of lower yields from the slopes of northern Italy, inflation and all the complications that come with Brexit, mean volumes of sparkling wine might go a little flat in 2018, but the UK sparkling wine market is well placed to weather tough times.”

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale added: “Sparkling wine is incredibly popular in the UK with sales booming over the past five years. However, there are signs of sales slowing and if Brexit gets in the way of trade coinciding with a bad harvest this could be damaging for the wine industry.

“It is essential for both sides of the Channel to insure the UK strikes a free trade deal with the EU so trade is not unnecessarily disrupted. The UK is the EU’s number one market for volume wine exports after Germany and, in return, Britain is the largest exporter spirits in the world – 42% of exports goes to Europe.

“We need Government to make progress on a trade deal to give the wine and spirit industry some stability in 2018.”

Frosts cause lower yields

Late spring frosts and droughts across Europe have been of particular concern for the sparkling wine sector, with English wine suffering from lower yields due to an air frost in April. However, with more land being planted with vines, wine volumes are expected to continue to grow.

Chalky soils and a similar climate make the south of England similar to the Champagne region, meaning that UK has ideal conditions to make sparkling wine in the traditional method.

The success of these wines has led Champagne houses like Taittinger and Pommery, buying land and investing in vineyards in the UK.

Meanwhile, the WSTA has also revealed that sales of rum​ are expected to exceed the £1bn mark for 2017, just behind sales of gin, which totalled £1.2bn in the 12 months to September last year.

Related topics Wine

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