Sparkling Wine feature: Bubbling with joy
Prosecco is the perfect success story; Britons love it and the media loves to write about it.
And according to the latest figures, Prosecco isn’t the only glass of fizz UK consumers are buying.
Over the past year sales of sparkling wine grew by 18.8% yoy (IRI to 12 September 2015), although Prosecco is the main driver of this growth, up 65% over the same period.
But can Prosecco’s success continue and will it help or hinder the plight of other sparkling wines?
So far the popularity of Prosecco shows no signs of waning and both big and small retailers frequently point to it as their success story, while producers also report of strong sales.
Joy Edmondson, brand development director at North South Wines says its Prosecco brand La Gioiosa is experiencing 976% value growth via the impulse channel.
The company is also seeing signs that fans are now looking to trade up.
“Many are affluent and are now looking for ‘Posh Prosecco’ as a next step,” she explains.
The future looks sparkly for Prosecco in the UK but the idea that demand might outstrip supply continues to be a concern, although it’s a concern we don’t need to worry about this year, according to Luca Giavi, general director of the Prosecco DOC, the official consortium for the production of Prosecco.
He notes that the UK now takes half of all the Prosecco exported, which equates to almost one third of the full bottling.
But others have also highlighted the fact Prosecco producers haven’t created many strong individual brands.
At last month’s International Cool Climate Wine Symposium event in the UK, wine industry consultant Mike Paul said: “Prosecco is a very successful commodity, which has a known price. You can sell it at a [standard] retail price, but it’s going to be tricky to sell it at double the average retail price.
“In Champagne you have a branded hierarchy that consumers understand more. It’s moving forward in a more balanced way, with brands and the cheaper own-label stuff.”
But Neil Anderson, marketing director at Kingsland Drinks, says a lack of brands isn’t currently posing a problem for the category.
“Consumers are heavily engaged with Prosecco and popularity within the market has prompted it to become a brand in itself. They have a loyalty to the name ‘Prosecco’ but little loyalty to individual brands.”
Anderson adds that there are still pressures on availability and cost for Prosecco.
“As a result, retailers are starting to explore credible sparkling alternatives.”
In April this year Kingsland launched its new carbonation line, which makes it the first and only UK bottler to sparkle wine.
For some sparkling varieties, particularly those competing in the same ‘everyday’ price bracket, the dominance of Prosecco has posed a challenge.
But for the most part it seems Britons just want to seek out more fizz, and bubbling under the success of Prosecco is a raft of global styles, such as South Africa’s Cap Classique.
Alastair Rimmer, head winemaker for Kleine Zalze explains: “We have launched a Cap Classique for independents and we are looking to find the middle ground between serious classic Champagne and a good summertime sparkle.”
The wine (rsp £19.50), which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is produced in the traditional method (in the same way as Champagne) and it spends 18 months on lees.
“We are not trying to be a Champagne,” says Rimmer. “There are Champagne emulators out there but we decided we needed to find our own identity. With our Cap Classique we get the depth of flavour but we keep the freshness.
“It is a bit of a tough sell in the UK because we are competing with both Champagne and Prosecco, but it fits into that mould of New World Champagne, and we know that sparkling as a category is soaring plus South Africa is doing well, so we want to capitalise on that. South African wines are seen as premium and there’s often a lifestyle link to the outdoors and barbecues.”
Meanwhile, growth in Cava has slowed against the popularity of Prosecco, but many producers are reporting of good sales.
Meritxell Juvé, deputy director of Juvé & Camps, says: “While there are now a number of everyday options, we have seen UK consumers are still looking to the premium end of the category for celebrations and we hope this is where we can develop the reputation of our Gran Reserva Cavas further.
“As the largest producer of Reserva and Gran Reserva Cava, we are working on new packaging across our range that will highlight the premium cues of the Juvé & Camps brand while also creating a stronger familial feel across the range. We hope to launch the new labels into the market this summer.”
And Nick Mantella, commercial business development director UK & USA for the Haciendas Company, says sales of its Cavas have been good.
“We are working on several new product development projects. Rosé has a huge potential and competitive advantage against other sparkling variants that are not strong in this style. Cava rosé is growing and is very popular during the summer, Valentine’s Day and other special occasions.”
And Freixenet announced earlier this year it was launching an Ice Cava, exclusively for the UK market. The “innovative and unique” Cava blend is designed to be enjoyed over ice, or in summer cocktails.
Meanwhile, Edmondson at North South Wines says its Cava portfolio from Monistrol is also doing well. “Monistrol Premium Cuvee is gaining distribution quickly – there is a loyal consumer following for Cava, particularly for top quality wines.”
In addition, the nation’s love of Prosecco may well be paving the way for other Italian sparkling wines.
Nick Tatham MW, wine development manager at Continental Wine & Food (CWF) says: “Sales of all our sparkling wines have been good including the Casa Gheller Cuvee Brut Rose sold in Bargain Booze and Wine Rack stores and the Berlucchi Franciacorta wines.
“I think the success of Prosecco will serve as a gateway for other Italian sparkling wines.
“Italy appears to be the natural home of good value and easy-drinking sparkling wines and is taking full advantage of the poor reputation and quality of much Cava and the lack of similar wines in France.”
English sparkling wines continue to hit the headlines and as a sub-category it seems to be finding it’s place neatly alongside both Prosecco and Champagne.
“We can’t compete with Prosecco on prices; what we do is always going to be at a premium,” explains Mardi Roberts, sales and marketing manager for Ridgeview Wine estate. “But there is huge room for growth for English sparkling wines in the English markets.
“Prosecco is bringing great growth and a younger audience into the sparkling category in general; it is a very easy drinking drink and very fresh, but after a while people are going to want to trade up to something that is more fresh and better in quality.
“Prosecco is great as a category but there is no brand definition. We want English sparkling wine to be known for its quality and brand reassurance.”
Vineyards across the UK are reporting of success for their sparkling varieties while alongside this new vineyards, including those now owned by Champagne producers, will soon produce their first vintages.
Ian Kellett, MD of Hambledon Vineyards, says: “It’s only two years since we launched our first wine, but we have already built strong distribution in both independent wine merchants and top restaurant accounts. We are now also going into Waitrose and Marks & Spencer as part of their recent extensions of their English wine offerings.”