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Corks Popping as Sparkling Wine Sales Surge

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We’re drinking more bubbles than ever before, according to a new report.

There’s a much better chance that the wine you drink tonight will contain bubbles than a decade ago, according to figures just released by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV).

The figures reveal that sparkling wine production has increased by 40 percent in the past 10 years, far outstripping still wine production, which only grew by 7 percent in the same period. The OIV puts the increase down to a change in consumption habits, with sparkling wine no longer seen as just a festive drink. Sparkling wine production reached 17.6 million hectoliters in 2013, a rise of 11 percent on the previous year. Its share of total wine production has also risen, from 4 percent in 2002 to 7 percent last year.

The report also contained a few surprises, including the fact that 74 percent of all sparkling wine is made by just five countries: France, Italy, Germany and Spain make up the top four places, while the surprise in fifth place is Russia. France produces a healthy 3.5m hl of sparkling wine annually and Champagne alone accounts for 15 percent of the global sparkling wine production.

The Prosecco boom and the popularity of Moscato over the past few years has helped Italy into a strong position as a sparkling wine producer. Production has risen by 22 percent since 2002, while Germany’s 2.6m hl of sparkling wine accounts for 31 percent of its total wine production, much consumed within the country itself.

While Europe maintains its grip on production, the rest of the world is keen to join the party. Australia and the United States have increased production by 29 percent and 25 percent, respectively, and South America is even more impressive. Argentina’s sparkling wine production rose by 198 percent in a decade, while the figure for Brazil was 248 percent.

Thirsty consumers are keeping pace with the increase in demand, too. Where once sparkling wines were restricted to end-of-year celebrations, consumption is now more evenly spread, as more people opt for sparkling wine as an aperitif or in a cocktail.

Consumption is currently estimated to be 15.4m hl and rising, indicating growth of some 30 percent over a decade, against a 4 percent overall rise in wine consumption. Impressive figures for a style that represents just six in every 100 bottles of wine produced in the world.

Germany and France remain the major consumers, but consumption is also growing in the U.S., Australia and Russia. China has become a major market, and is now the fifth-largest market for Champagne.

Exports of sparkling wine have more than doubled since 2002, but growth in value has been less impressive, rising just 5 percent since 2000. The relatively slow value increase is in part attributable to the 2008 economic crisis, which impacted on top-end sparkling wines and made cheaper wines like Prosecco and Cava more attractive to consumers.

The three biggest exporters of sparkling wines account for a whopping 80 percent of the market in volume and value. However, while France takes 53 percent of the market by value, Italy only accounts for 21 percent, despite a 44 percent volume share. For Spain, the contrast between a volume share of 21 percent and value share of only 9 percent is even starker. Champagne obviously remains stronger than ever in the marketplace.

Don Kavanagh

11 November, 2014

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