Are we drinking enough English sparkling wine?

16th May 2012

I was asked to comment recently on why I thought that English Sparkling Wines has not taken off amongst the British Consumer. The punch line that was required from me neither adequately answered the question, nor, I felt, stemmed my need to talk about English wines.

I was asked to comment recently on why I thought that English Sparkling Wines has not taken off amongst the British Consumer. The punch line that was required from me neither adequately answered the question, nor, I felt, stemmed my need to talk about English wines. The simple answer, I believe, is that it has. More of us are drinking more of the stuff than we were even 5 years ago, with the consumption of fizz growing at a rate of 3% a year for the last ten years. In relative terms, we still only have a small amount to drink each year. English vineyards currently produce about 3 million bottles of sparkling wine per year. When you think that Moet and Chandon on its own produces 2 million bottles per year, we have some way to go. And whilst this all seems like small change these figures have been rising year on year, with estimates putting production at between 7-8 million bottles by 2016, putting it at the same production levels as Tasmania.

Some of the wine produced in the UK, if the producers are lucky, is sent abroad. But a large proportion is consumed by the British public. And whilst just over half of us that consume alcohol will enjoy sparkling wine from all over the world at least once a year, only about 5 million people enjoy sparkling wine at least once a week. Of these “committed sparkling wine drinkers” 14% of all sparkling wine drinkers consume English sparkling wine at least once a month, so about 700,000 people per month actively drink English Sparkling wine. I think that this is very impressive. Of course, we are nowhere near the same levels as Champagne, Prosecco or Cava, but we are getting there.

Commitment to English sparkling wine can be further seen in those spending serious amounts of money buying and developing new wineries. £3million was reputed to be the cost of purchasing Rathfiny Estate South Downs, East Sussex last year by Mark Driver and his wife Sarah. Attracting New Zealand viticulturist Cameron Roucher and Jonathan Medard as wine maker, formally of Moet & Chandon and Louis Roederer, this is just one of several projects in the pipeline for English Sparkling wine. Of course, it will be some time before we can even try their wines, 2017 is the likely first vintage that will come to market.

Plumpton College in Sussex announced earlier this year that they are to host the next International Cool Climate Symposium in 2016, previously hosted by New Zealand in 1988. It undoubtedly put NZ on the map both with serious still and sparkling wines. This move does state quite clearly to the international wine community that the UK is now a serious producer of cool-climate sparkling wines.

And as if we needed any more proof, year on year, an elite of top estates continue to win national and international awards for their wines. Nyetimber set the benchmark back in 1998 by winning the “Best Worldwide sparkling wine” at the International Wine and Spirit Competition. Adding to the trophy room in current times, Ridgeview boasts the “Decanter World Wine Awards Regional Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine 2011” for its Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs 2007, and Camel Valley in Cornwall was awarded the “International Sparkling Rosé Trophy” at Bollicine del Mondo Competition in Verona in November 2011 for the second year in a row, for its Camel Valley Pinot Rosé 2009. The list goes on for these top estates, as could I, but I think the proof is in the pudding.

We are not going to be able to transform people overnight, just as drinking trends take time to progress. But we are definitely all moving in the right direction. England is making more, drinking more and winning more awards than ever before and this one trend that is defiantly on the up and up.

        

Search


Further reading