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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
24 Dec 2011

I couldn't resist passing on the following review of the year based on the sales figures of one of the most prominent wine merchants in the UK (with a substantial presence in Asia too):

Champagne maintains its sparkle

Champagne has lost none of its fizz this year with sales the strongest for three years, according to Berry Bros & Rudd.

Sales of Champagne this year are up almost 17% by volume and 41% byBBR_Year_in_Wine_infographic value on 2010, giving a clear sign that despite a mood of austerity, people haven't been swapping Champagne for Cava. Sales of Sparkling Wines have remained relatively consistent across the same three year period with just a small rise experienced.

Prosecco soaring in popularity

Champagne isn't the only fizz to be seeing a surge in popularity. Figures from Berry Bros. & Rudd also show Prosecco to be a rising star. Sales of the fashionable Italian sparkling wine have been steadily climbing over past years but soared in 2011 by 28% in terms of volume and by 37% in value on 2010. And the predictions are that this trend is set to stay.

English wines have a vintage year

English wines had a record year in retail with sales up 50% by value and 25% by volume on 2010, while the value of English wine sold more than doubled between 2006 and 2011, according to Berry Bros & Rudd.

Berry's sales rose on the back of dramatically improved quality which has driven greater demand from drinkers for native grapes. Berry's selection now numbers 18 different English wines from seven different producers.

Discerning drinkers still buying French wine

While Australia and the US slug it out to win the hearts and wallets of the average UK wine drinkers, the more discerning wine connoisseurs are still buying French.

Australian wines may continue to be the most popular with UK consumers with a market share of over 21.5% and sales of over £1.1 billion annually* but it is French wine that tops the sales charts at 300 year old wine retailer, Berry Bros & Rudd.

In 2011, Berry Bros & Rudd sold over 1.3 million bottles of French wine - an increase of 6% from the previous year. Italy is placed second in the league table, gaining ground on the previous year with a rise in sales of 29% in volume and 15% in value on 2010.

Organic and biodynamic wines feeling the pinch

Sales of Organic and Biodynamic wines are decreasing according to latest figures from Berry Bros. & Rudd. Biodynamic wines experienced a boom year in 2009 when sales increased by 87% in volume on 2008 but 2011 saw a 54% decrease in volume sales on 2010. [And I thought Pontet Canet was one of their best sellers...! JR]

Organic wines aren't faring much better. After a strong year in 2009 where sales increased by 4% in volume, sales have been sliding steadily and this year sees a 63% decline on 2010 volume sales.

Expensive wines still flying off the shelves

Premium wine sales continue to grow and Berry Bros. & Rudd has seen a sharp increase in the amount its customers are prepared to pay for a quality bottle of wine. Despite the economic downturn, the average cost of a bottle of wine has gone up by almost 56% - or almost £20. The average amount spent on a bottle of wine by wine lovers in 2008 was £33 and this climbed to £51.60 this year showing that discerning drinkers are happy to splash out for the right wine.

A surge in wine buffs

Wine drinkers are keen to hone their knowledge about wine. Berry Bros & Rudd has seen a surge in popularity for its tutored tastings and wine courses with a 71% increase in bookings since 2008.

Grapes on the rise

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular grape, topping the list for the past three years and doubling in sales volumes across that period. Chardonnay occupies second position in the grape popularity stakes, four places higher than its rival Sauvignon Blanc. And Pinot Noir comes in in third place.

Commenting on the trends, Alun Griffiths, MW, Buying Director from Berry Bros & Rudd said:

'2011 has been a great year for wine at Berry Bros. & Rudd despite the very challenging economic circumstances. With a marked slowdown in fine wine sales, it has been reassuring to see that sales in the mid-priced drinking categories have held up well.

'As we enter 2012, consumers will still be on the look-out for value in terms of quality wines at reasonable prices. The tax hikes means it's worth trading up as consumers get a disproportionately better wine now for, say £8, than they do for £5.

'Spain will be a region to watch in 2012 with its well-made, attractively-priced red and white wines; Argentina continues to make huge strides and South Africa is now producing some excellent wines.

'We predict that while Champagne sales have held up well, Prosecco will see substantial growth. But it's the UK that's the real success story in the Sparkling Wine category with some tremendous English Sparkling wine available.'