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English wine sales soar at Christmas, say retailers

UK retailers have reported significant increases in English wine sales over the festive season, as Berry Bros & Rudd's chief executive, Dan Jago, predicts that English sparkling wine will soon be taken as seriously as Champagne.

Both Waitrose and Marks & Spencer saw English wine sales rise across red, white, rose, sparkling and sweet wines. To meet the demand, both stores have increased their range of English wines, with M&S introducing 12 new lines.

‘The 12 new lines are available regionally in local stores which has proved extremely popular,’ said Elizabeth Kelly, M&S wine buyer. The retailer has also had success with Welsh wine. ‘Our first vintage of a Welsh Bacchus sold out in just three months.’

In January 2015, English Wine Producers predicted that English wine sales may get close to £100m for the year, up from £78m in 2014.

The Wine Society has almost doubled the number of bottles of English sparkling wine sold in the last four years from 2,808 in 2011 to 4,968 in 2015.

Christmas 2015

Over the Christmas 2015 period, Virgin Wines’ chief executive, Jay Wright, said, ‘Our wine advisors in particular have noticed an increase in the amount of customers requesting English sparkling wines for Christmas.’

At M&S, one of the largest increases was in sales of Chapel Down’s Sparkling English Brut and Sparkling English Rosé Brut, which rose by more than 300% in volume.

Waitrose reported sales of English sparkling wine up 188% in volume, with one in 50 British customers choosing English fizz over Champagne or other sparkling wines this Christmas.

English wine ‘within a whisper’ of Champagne

Dan Jago, CEO of Berry Bros & Rudd, said in the fine wine merchant’s predictions for 2016 that, ‘English Sparkling is within a whisper – by which I mean the next two years or so – of being taken just as seriously as Champagne; and the pace at which this has happened is incredible.

‘Before the 2009 vintage there was variable quality, but now the 2009, ‘10s and ‘11s are on the market and are looking brilliant.’

His comments come less than a month after Taittinger announced it was the first Champagne house to invest in prime vineyard land in Kent.

However, survey data shows that English sparkling wine still has plenty of marketing work to do. A Yougov poll commissioned by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) found that 17% of particpants would consider buying English sparkling wine for Christmas, with a majority unlikely to consider it.

The WSTA wants to see the UK government to offer more support to English and Welsh wine. WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said, ‘If properly backed by government, it will encourage the growth of highly skilled jobs, increase tourism in the UK and boost British exports.’

Beale also wants the Chancellor to readdress the excise duty imbalance between UK wine duty tax and EU duty. Duty in the UK is nearly three times higher than in France and Spain, he said.

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