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UK most difficult market for top end sparkling wine outside Champagne

Published:  10 June, 2014

The UK is the most difficult market for top end sparkling wine outside of Champagne, according to the head of Franciacorta's trade body in Italy.

As producers of Italy's most premium sparkling wine region look to gain wider distribution in the UK, Mauricio Zanella, president of the Consorzio Franciacorta, and owner of leading producer, Ca del Bosco, said it "will take a long time" to make the kind of impact it is looking for.

By comparison, he said, it was far easier for Franciacorta producers to build stronger markets in countries such as the United States, Scandinavia or, in particular, Japan. Countries where there is not the affinity or cultural closeness to Champagne that exists in the UK, stressed Zanella.

Franciacorta wines are looking to raise awareness of the region's wines as an alternative to Champagne in the UKMauricio Zanella, president of the Consorzio FranciacortaMauricio Zanella, president of the Consorzio Franciacorta, and owner of leading producer, Ca del Bosco, said it

"Franciacorta can be seen as an alternative to Champagne in those markets," he said.

But the situation in the UK is far more complex.

"The UK is the most difficult market for sparkling wine. It is the Champagne market first and then the second market is very focused on price.

"This is a problem for Franciacorta. All the alternatives to Champagne have to be cheaper."

This presents a challenge for producers, who are hoping to hit an average price point of around £22-£25 in retail, to raise both trade and consumer awareness for Franciacorta and the Lombardy region and its styles of premium sparkling wine.

Vineyards in Italy's Franciacorta region, which is looking to build its profile as an alternative to Champagne, in the UK.

Zanella was keen to point out that Franciacorta should not be compared to Prosecco, but should sit alongside Champagne as it follows the same production techniques and levels of quality. 

Its strategy in the UK, which is being devised with and implemented by Proven Communication, is based around trade education, specialist tastings for key groups like sommeliers, trade visits to the region and working with leading Italian restaurants that can act as "ambassadors".

Further down the line it hopes to link up with sponsorships and associations with luxury Italian goods and events, like it currently does in Italy.

Zanella is confident that once consumers understand the softer, lighter, more approachable, less acidic style of Franciacorta, compared to Champagne, it can look to build its UK market share.

Currently on a trade visit to Franciacorta with, restaurant consultant, Peter McCombie MW, said: "Franciacorta in many ways is fighting an uphill battle even though the quality is undoubtedly there."

He added: "There are a limited number of slots on restaurants lists for quality premium fizz.

"People look first at Champagne, then at Prosecco for the affordable glass. They are then looking for the gap in between.

People tend to pay more for a quality Prosecco over Cava, but it is hard to get them to trade up to a premium New World fizz or Franciacorta, where English sparkling wine has stolen a march."