The pandemic showed that people were treating sparkling wine as a celebratory wine versus a wine that can be enjoyed routinely. Here is what happened in 2020 in major sparkling wine regions:
Sparkling wine sales total estimate for 2020 according to IWSR (total decrease -8% from 2019):
- Champagne shipments 2020: 245m bottles (-18% FPY)
- Prosecco shipments 2020: est. 452m bottles (-7% FPY)
- Cava shipments 2020: 215.6m bottles (-14% FPY) Source: IWSR
Wine consumption in the US was stable in 2020 but the remainder of the world wine consumption was down (Source: OIV). While the US is the largest wine market, per capita wine consumption is not the highest not even in the top 10 (imagine if it was!)
The UK is the biggest importer of Champagne in the world and when compared to the US that is a 5x difference in any given year (in 2020 the UK imported – 21.2 mm bottles and the US imported 20.8 mm bottles). The reason is simple: Champagne and sparkling wine, in general, is not a celebratory beverage but a normalized wine in the United Kingdom. I don’t have statistics on the British import of Cava or Prosecco but I am sure the magnitude is most certainly and perhaps more bottles for both nations but my guess is that the ratio is mostly the same.
Yes, of course, sparkling wine is wine (but some people feel sparkling wine is so out-of-the-ordinary that it cannot be called wine)–that unto itself is telling. The UK consumer has normalized sparkling wine—and that is a good thing. I have a glass of bubbly, at least, once a week—it is a normal and routine part of my wine enjoyment. I look forward to it and I doesn’t make sparkling wine any less special or exciting.
Sparkling wine no matter where it comes from Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, Franciacorta and the New World is sequestered for only celebratory moments. I know that I have long advocated a position of enjoying it more often. When I was a wine marketing manager at a large off-premise wine retailer I wanted to campaign ‘Enjoying Sparkling Wine Once Weekly.’ Simply the predictability for sparkling wine was New Years, Valentines day and a few other blips on the holiday calendar. This would mean that the average wine drinker might enjoy a glass 4-5 times a year. And I think, in particular, in the US the average wine consumer needs some kind of “permission” to enjoy sparkling wine more often.
I am aware that not everyone likes or even loves sparkling wine but it is a wine that I find compelling and love all regions and expressions and even style. I do see the full capability of sparkling wines being paired from first dish to dessert as completely relevant. The only time I have done this is in Champagne and each meal was memorable and I remember everything I ate and all the wine I tasted. The ‘check engine’ light did not go off instead–it was my quest to do this in a meal that I prepare in the future. I am planning on preparing two meals in ‘22 where I will prepare one meal with sparkling wine from one region and another with a mix of sparkling wines from several regions. I think it is important to highlight how sparkling wine is not just for celebratory wine but a compelling wine for the entire dining experience.
Sparkling wine I do think, at least, in the US is not enjoyed more often is that it harkens back to a much more conservative view of wine and alcohol in general. Also, perhaps a couple who opens a bottle sometimes feel the need to drink it in one setting and what if one of the partners doesn’t like sparkling wine? There are, of course, amazing sparkling wine closures (my favourite right now is Le Creuset that helps to preserve the wine for the next day and beyond.
Perhaps there is the thought that sparkling wines are expensive–the packaging on many producers’ bottles are special and I do think there is guilt in opening a beautiful bottle. But like any other wine category “there is more where it came from.” There is a wide range and so many sparkling wines are so reasonably priced
It is lovely start with a sparkling wine on any given Friday after work and enjoy with a triple cream or other cheeses and charcuterie and other nice things on your cheese board – dried fruit, almonds and so much more and feel n guilt. Do yourself a favour and try a sparkling wine on a non-celebratory occasion and take it out for a spin to see if you enjoy sparkling wine in a non-celebratory setting! And the enjoyment is to taste a variety of sparkling wines and find what is most pleasing to you!
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