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London - Centre of the World’s Sparkling Wine Trade?

01/05/2018

Statistics say that the sparkling wine category in the UK would grow by 84.4% in coming 10 years if the growth pattern continues on its current trend by 2021. Know the current status, trends and future opportunities about the category in the UK here

London has often been referred to as the centre of the world’s wine trade. However, a new insight is emerging with the UK’s capital being identified as the global capital of not just Champagne but also Sparkling Wine.

Recent figures from research bodies demonstrate the growth in sparkling wine globally. The Organisation des Inernationale de la Vigne et Vin (OIV) has just reported that sparkling wine globally has grown by 8% in volume and 19% in value. Specifically, the UK’s growth reported by the IWSR (International Wine and Spirit Research) and Vinexpo showed that the category will have grown by 84.4% in 10 years if the growth pattern continues on its current trend by 2021.

Furthermore, Prosecco is driving that UK growth in substantive ways shipping predicted 10.6 Million cases by 2021, about 5 times the volume of Champagne.

But how is that being demonstrated in the UK market?

How can producers and brands be successful in this most competitive of markets?

London is the centre for UK wine consumption as well as trade and communications. So if initiatives take hold anywhere then they tend to centre on the UK’s capital.

The On-Trade Operator’s View

Recently Grays and Feather announced that it is opening the World’s First Global sparkling wine bar in Covent Garden. Founder and creator Andrew Gray said that it is a to be theatrical and have real personality and above all else is a place to have fun. As a sparkling wine expert and ambassador for the French Cremant wines in the UK, his passion for the subject is palpable. His dedication more so, having run the Grays and Feather Sparkling wine market stall at Southbank Food market for 7 years come rain, snow, and shine.

The traditionalists may be shocked when they realise that Sparkling wine means no Champagne and in Covent Garden and all. But for good reason, which chimes with the times of the global sparkling wine growth, value for money, an experiential view of the wider world, stories to tell and focus on the different or unusual without being outrageous for the sake of it.

Grays and Feather open at 26 Wellington Street, WC2 towards the end of June (date TBC), and will be dedicated to the world’s sparkling wines. There will be 50 sparkling wines from around the world will dominate the list, with 10 roses and 10 sparkling reds. The selection process for the sparkling wines is rigorous, and with so much choice in the market then it has to be. It takes Andrew’s pragmatic approach and moulds it into something unique. Whilst yet to be fully settled the shape is beginning to emerge.

A Recently opened Prosecco bar at Tower Bridge further asserts London’s position of not just trading but expressing and voluably telling stories about the fastest growing wine category. Owner Kristina Issa

 " The idea came to me over drinks with friends back in January. I love Prosecco but could never find a glass of the same quality here in London

The Prosecco Brand View

Colucci’s Prosecco is one of a few brands that sees the opportunity of London as a vibrant consumer market.

Owner Marce Colucci discussed this

“We see ourselves as Colucci’s first. We work with fabulous family wineries, in unique terrioir, perfecting exclusive blends and ageing, on to which Colucci's projects brilliant consumer experiences. After all most UK consumers will never visit Friuli Venezia, so it is up to us to create unique memorable experiences that engage at the right level”.

Marce develops this line by explaining Colucci’s strategy

‘We have taken on a massive challenge, to persuade the consumers and the market that prosecco is not just about lowest cost, bottomless glasses, but about quality. That’s why Colucci’s elevates the Prosecco experience to include The Perfect Serve and a unique collaboration developed with some of the UKs leading chefs”. 

It’s a very different take on the market to the terroir norm, but demonstrates the ambition and creative thinking required to be successful in this intense market atmosphere.

The Champagne view

Paul Beavis, Managing Director of Champagne Lanson, sees London (and to a degree, the Home Counties) as ‘exceptionally important’.

It’s a global platform where ideas and trends are allowed to develop and flourish. It is an enterprising creative city and Champagne Lanson, take the view that our business model and unique proposition can be emulated across the world.

The Champagne category is all about Premiumisation. Less is more. The customer wants a brand it can trust so education and Quality are key trends.

For example

‘the successful launch of our Lanson Pere er Fils and the growing trend of Organic - which is where our new Lanson Green Label Brut Organic is generating a lot of interest in the on trade’. 

The category must have a diverse operator mindset - the norm won’t apply. Choice/quality and value will be important. Every group is important to the category and they would not want to be complacent welcoming all to their brand. However, inappropriate ways they experiment with the brand. As an example taking the Green Label Brut Organic or White label and adding a sprig of mint or fresh fruit. Younger people (i.e. 24+) are drinking Champagne through quality and advocacy and Champagne Lanson sees it as their role to provide choice at the point of choice in the luxury space.

They have a range to suit just about every taste.


The Distributors View

Robin Copestick, MD at leading UK distributor Copestick Murray and owned by sparkling wine group Henkel reported that London is still the centre for Champagne.  It is difficult to innovate outside of France, with Prosecco becoming more popular away from the centre of London. There is no doubt that the sommeliers and good independent retailers are open to the idea of different sparkling wines, top cava, DOCG Prosecco etc, but when you look at the actual sales, then they often disappoint. In summary, these latter products become ‘window dressing’ but Champagne is still what the money wants.

Interestingly he did mention that Henkell do have some interesting ideas for the future, but an integration of Freixenet is the priority currently. Intriguing!

At the centre of the Sparkling wine or Champagne categories is theatre, personality, and fun.

Grays and Feather held a trial oyster eating competition. It was done as a bit on the hoof on the market stall, a little messy perhaps but fun and engaging. Maybe alongside the street entertainers, we will see crowds gathering for the famous Grays and Feather wine bar competitions?

The reality for brand owners wanting to be successful in the UK market is that their wines have to be ‘seriously’ entertaining and find unique aspects and insights to drive strategies to make their brands work.

As Robin Copestick reflects London is still where the action is and where Champagne sells. There is still a long way to go to achieve the Champenois commercial and cultural success. However, the way to climb a mountain is to put one step in front of another, with the vision of the summit and maybe that is where the Global Sparkling Wine category is at. That is why innovation is critical and London is at the centre of the sparkling action.

About London Wine Competition

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The London Wine Competition is being launched to identify and reward those brands and products that consumers actually want to buy, rather than simply recognize good quality wines for their winemaking ability alone. To be a real success a wine brand has to be bought by consumers, be it on a supermarket shelf or a restaurant or bar's list. The London Wine Competition will single out and highlight the wine brands on sale in the UK and International markets that are truly commercially successful. Read more about how it works here.