Last year Rathfinny became a member of the English Wine Producers, which is the marketing arm for the commercial wine producers in England. The EWP works in a very collaborative way, recently promoting English wines at ProWein, the international wine trade fair in Dusseldorf, Germany and on Tuesday of this week they managed a very successful ‘pop-up’ wine tasting at the London International Wine Fair at the Excel centre in London. Yours truly was also at the LIWF talking about English sparkling wine under the rather ridiculous title “Is the bubble about to burst?”
I say it’s ridiculous because the only bubbles in English sparkling wine are in the bottle. The simple fact is that we don’t produce enough for there to be a bubble. Sure, various new producers are coming into production over the next few years, including Rathfinny, and production is going to grow, however, we will still be a very small wine producer on the international stage. We are being compared to New Zealand yet they produce over 200 million litres of wine compared to our 2 million!
So let me give you some facts. Sadly we don’t have the numbers for 2012 but given the dreadful summer, production was probably down by 30-50% on 2011. Total English wine production in 2011 was just over 3 million bottles, of which just over half was sparkling wine.
In theory today, based on historic yields, from the roughly 1,350 hectares planted in England and Wales, we could produce close to 6 million bottles and nearly 4 million of that is likely to be sparkling wine. So how big is the market for English sparkling wine?
The UK is one of the largest consumers of sparkling wine in the world, we drank nearly 120 million bottles of the stuff last year and consumption is growing by 3% per annum. We are also the second largest consumer of Champagne in the world drinking 36 million bottles last year. Interestingly according to wine intelligence 14% of sparkling wine consumers say that they drink English fizz once a month. That would equate to 3.5 million bottles per annum. Which is great but we only produce 1.5-2 million bottles!
So what is the problem with us producing 7, 8 or even 10 million bottles of English sparkling wine? Can we find a market for it?
Well the main issue is price – English Fizz typically retails at between £20-25 per bottle, which is the price of the lower quality Champagne. So we need to continue to convince UK consumers that instead of buying poor quality Champagne, they should be buying more quality English Fizz, which is made in the same hand picked, hand crafted and bottle fermented method and much better value.
However, firstly we need to make it more available. Existing producers are all sold out. Whenever I ask in restaurants why they don’t have any English wine or fizz on the wine list, they say it is because they can’t get hold of it and it is the same story in our local off licence. Very few producers have the capacity to offer the quantities that some restaurant chains require. Lastly, we need to explore and expand the export market for our award winning sparkling wines.
So in conclusion, let’s stop talking about a bubble and talk about the bubbles. We have a fantastic product that will be consumed around the world so let’s shout about it.
Go English Fizz….