Sparkling wine sales in UK keep on growing

Vineyards in the he Alsace region
Vineyards in the he Alsace region

Sales of sparkling wine in the UK have nearly doubled in the last five years according to a report published in Decanter magazine recently

They are up 80% to a record 191 million bottles. The UK remains the number one export market for champagne, but other sparkling wines, such as Prosecco, are increasingly consumed here. Our own domestic wine industry is also increasing rapidly, much of which is the production of sparklers. Annual production of English sparkling wine is now around five million bottles and growing. Once the reserve of celebrations and special events, consumption of sparkling wines has now become part of everyday life, often being drunk as an aperitif, served at meetings and receptions and served by the glass in restaurants and pubs.

Due to adverse weather conditions in Europe through most of the growing season in 2016, the quantity produced of many sparkling wines, however, including champagne, is likely to be significantly lower this year. This may have an effect on price and may be a cause to look for some alternative sparklers which are more affordable. Prosecco is, of course, one of those, but it sometimes lacks the finesse, style and overall quality of some other sparkling wines. The secondary fermentation - the process that puts the bubbles in - for Prosecco is in large pressurised tanks. With the Traditional Method, by which champagne, English sparkling, cava and many other high quality wines are made, the secondary fermentation is in the bottle. This is a more expensive method, but generally produces a better product.

One Traditional Method sparkling wine which is a more affordable option, but rarely seen in the UK, more's the pity, is Crémant d ‘Alsace. It is a great alternative to Prosecco, and at a recent tasting I conducted, everybody agreed that the quality and character of the Crémant was better and more appealing. Crémant d ‘Alsace is the second most popular sparkling wine in France after champagne.

The Alsace is one of the most Northerly fine wine regions of Europe, but due to its particular geographical situation and micro-climate, produces some outstanding wines. Crémant d’Alsace is made mainly from Pinot Blanc grapes and must be aged on the lees for the secondary fermentation for at least nine months. The style is fruity and fresh, yet it has a delicate richness and fine bubbles, making a very appealing wine. Other grape varieties such as Pinot Gris and Riesling are permitted, giving even more aromatic character.

Production and sales have increased by a factor of 15 in the past 30 years, growing from 2 million bottles to over 33 million. 81% of this is consumed domestically, although export sales have also grown over the same period from 95,000 bottles to 6 million. 75% of the exports go to Belgium and Germany and some of the rest is imported to the UK. I, along with several million French wine consumers, am a great fan of Crémant d’Alsace and I hope that availability in the UK will increase soon.