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WSTA research finds Champagne and fortified wine sales rally in 2020

Champagne and fortified wines were among the winners in the drinks sector in the latter half of 2020, as consumers looked to add some sparkle and nostalgic comfort to their festivities, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

Fortified wines such as port and sherry enjoyed their best off-trade sales quarter for more than five years in the 12 weeks to 3 October, with around eight million bottles sold in shops and supermarkets. According to WSTA data, sales grew in value by 14 per cent to £56 million.

While on-trade sales dropped by 42% over the past 12 months to around 430,000 bottles, largely due to onerous pandemic restrictions on the hospitality industry, the WSTA says the category enjoyed overall growth - sales were up in value from £270 million in 2019 to £303 million in 2020.

Miles Beale, WSTA chief executive, said: "In such a difficult year, the news that we have been enjoying more ports and sherries at home recently to arrest slow stagnation in the category is welcome... Fortified wines can often be overlooked, but they are incredibly versatile."

Meanwhile, Champagne sales were also up in the three months to October as people sought a bit of sparkle in an otherwise challenging year. Shop and supermarket sales equated to 2.3 million bottles - or £63 million - in the 12-week period, a growth of 16 per cent by volume and 22 per cent by value.

The WSTA said it was a great finish to 2020 for the Champagne category, which has seen a sliding market share in recent times as other sparkling wines muscle in.

The total market for Champagne in the past 12 months equates to 14.3 million bottles worth £418 million - a significant reduction on previous years, due in large part to the collapse in on-trade sales - but the WSTA said the surge in sales before Christmas was a promising sign for the category.

5 January 2021 - Bethany Whymark