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WSTA launches Christmas campaign to turnaround sales of fortified wines

Published:  20 December, 2016

The UK wine trade and consumers alike are being called upon to 'Save Santa's Sherry' in a festive campaign from the WSTA.

Sales of fortified wines in the UK have fallen by more than 50% in the last decade.

Some 35 million bottles of fortified wines were sold in the UK in 2015, down from over 82 million bottles in 2005.

The worst hit has been Vermouth, down from 16 million bottles to less than six million over the decade, while Sherry fell from 22 million to 10 million.

Port has proved the most resilient, but still recorded a fall in sales from 10 million to eight million, although sales were slightly up year-on-year from 2014.

The collapse in sales can be attributed to the rise in alcohol duty over the same period, the WSTA believes.

The duty on fortified wines has grown 53% since 2007, adding £1 to a bottle of Port or Sherry.

In 2008 alone, duty on fortified wine increased by 18%, leading to a 32% decline in sales volumes the following year.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said: "Whether it's the sherry shared as an aperitif or left out for Santa, a port to accompany the cheese course at the end of Christmas lunch or vermouth shaken or stirred in a classic Martini - these drinks have been enjoyed by the British for centuries.

"It would be incredibly sad to see the British traditions associated with these drinks, which have been passed down through the generations, disappear.

"We are urging people to support the WSTA Campaign to 'Save Santa's sherry, keep passing the port and value vermouth' and go out this Christmas and rediscover our top-quality fortified wines.

"We would like to remind government that cutting excise duty boosts business and brings more money into the Treasury."

The UK's duty rate for fortified wines is 33.3% above that for still wine, meaning that nearly 60% of the retail price of a bottle can be accounted for by either duty or VAT.

The development of Port and Sherry, in particular, has historic roots in the British wine trade. British merchants established businesses in the 17th and 18th centuries to import wines designed for the British palate. Fortification was required to stabilise the wines in transit from Oporto and Jerez to Bristol, Liverpool and London.

Andrew Hawes, managing director of Mentzendorff, said: "The origins of Port and other fortified wines, recalls our history as a great trading nation and it is important that government support our industry to ensure the UK remains the key player in the international wine trade. This explains the origin of many of the brand names we remain familiar with to this day: Croft is today a producer of both port and sherry, Taylor's & Graham's are famous Port brands, Harvey's is synonymous with Sherry and was originally a Bristol company.

"The British continue their enduring love of these unique fortified wines, indeed sales have grown at the premium end of both port and sherry. It seems unjust that the British public and fortified wines are being penalised by an outdated and unfair duty regime and therefore we very much support the WSTA's campaign."