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Boisset research identifies ‘big opportunity’ for Crémant in UK

Published:  17 July, 2019

Crémant is ideally placed to bridge the gulf between Prosecco and premium priced English sparkling wine and Champagne, offering mid-market value to continue to drive the growth of sparkling wine in the UK.

This was the research-backed assessment of Marcel Combes, sparkling wines division director at Boisset, speaking to Harpers over a tasting of the company’s Louis Bouillot Crémant de Bourgogne range in London.

“We couldn’t understand why there is no sparkling wine on the shelf between £12 and £15, which is where we can deliver good value for consumers and there is a big opportunity for Crémant de Bourgogne,” said Combes.

In 2018 sparkling wine (excluding the decline in Champagne), still dominated by Prosecco, dipped 2% by volume while rising just 1% in value in the UK off-trade (Nielsen).

But fizz continued to grow fast in the on-trade, up 18% by volume and 30% by value, with a 10% increase in average price far outstripping duty and other inflationary rises.

This, in turn, suggested Combes, meant that Crémant, with its typically creamy and more complex style over Prosecco, is well positioned to capitalise on the trend to higher spend by consumers, with Prosecco growth showing signs of reaching a plateau, and with few wines positioned higher up the price ladder.

“Crémant is a category that answers customers’ aspiration for quality sparkling wines at a sweet price point,” said Combes.

Analysis undertaken by Boisset revealed that while currently commanding a small share of the UK sparking category, sales of Crémant’s ‘big three’ producers – Alsace, Burgundy and Loire – have bounced back from a dip induced by runaway Prosecco growth.

Sales of all Crémant in the UK rose sharply from around €500,000 in 2016 to a peak of €2.5m in mid 2018, although falling back to €1.5m in 2019 following the end of successful listings in the discounter sector.

Total Crémant production currently stands at around 80m bottles per annum, with Alsace’s 35m bottles largely drunk in the domestic French market, while Burgundy (18-20m bottles) and Loire (15m bottles) are enjoying success on exports markets led by North America, Scandinavia and countries such as Germany.

With Crémant de Bourgogne typically commanding more premium prices than its rivals, Combes says that it is best placed to grow Crémant in the UK, backed by an increase in production in the Burgundy region, where Crémant now accounts for 14% of wine produced.

The rise of English sparkling wine has played its part in this optimistic prediction, showing that UK consumers are prepared to spend up – and significantly – if the quality and style match expectations, with Crémant positioning itself as a good mid-priced bridge, offering accessibility but with the complexity of a traditional method sparkling wine.

“Crémant doesn’t want to be Champagne, it wants to be Crémant style, approachable, creamier, influenced by the fruit of Burgundy, which has a warmer climate,” said Combes, highlighting this appeal.

Combes believes that Crémant de Bourgogne, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as the backbone varieties, along with fruity Gamay and acidity-giving Aligote allowed in the blend, is best placed among France’s big ticket Crémant regions to fulfil consumer expectations with regard to expected flavour profile from more premium sparkling wine.

He added that it is the gatekeepers in the UK – rather than consumers – that need convincing for this missing step on the sparkling wine price ladder to be better served to the benefit of all.