Prosecco’s popularity is helping champagne and it is no longer just a hope it will transform the sector, Connoisseur Estates’ Andrew Steel told Imbibe.
Other sparkling producers have stopped looking at the Italian sparkler’s success with envy, according to the director, because the love of fizz has finally trickled down (or up) to quality bubbles.
‘If you talk to anyone in champagne, it is not just hope that [prosecco sales]will affect them,’ Steel said. ‘English sparkling will gain. Champagne will gain.’
It’s not just sales being gained, Steel said it is a change in behaviour. ‘Really, it is a sea-change in people’s drinking habits,’ he said. ‘It is a different world. In the 1980s you struggled to get anyone to open a bottle of fizz unless it was an occasion. Prosecco has now blown that totally out the window. It has transformed people’s drinking habits. And it is going to evolve for all of us in the champagne world.’
Connoisseur Estates has a prosecco in its portfolio and it sells a lot of it, Steel said.
‘Everyone is looking for fizz and sparkling. Fizz is aspirational. Consumers will start with a glass of prosecco and then they will go onto champagne and it is going to help the on-trade.’
The change in the market has been, and will continue to be, driven by the on-trade, Steel said. ‘It has changed for fizz and the on-trade is driving it. At some stage the quality sector is going to gain.’
Manchester champagne bar, Épernay, sells fizz by the glass. Last year, it sold 50 cases of Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. ‘It’s not just any fizz,’ Steel said. ‘It’s high quality and it’s really rolling. The on-trade is key.’
Connoisseur Estates’ portfolio is expanding and the director said it is now incredibly well rounded. The next step for the company is on-trade dominance. ‘We need to get into the on-trade,’ he said. ‘The wholesalers are key. We will not touch the on-trade direct.’
Steel acknowledged this might be why Connoisseur has been ‘behind the curve’ in the past. ‘But now we are focusing on getting distribution in and around London. We have got wholesalers in place to take most of this on,’ he added.
The company is also working with The Drinks Club. ‘They are all about quality on-trade. They are taking a sample of our stock,’ Steel said.
‘We are now finding the right distribution to get our products in the on-trade. The one thing about the wines in our portfolio is they are individual and they are billed as food wines. We have a portfolio of wines that do work when they get onto wine lists. When people taste them, they love them.’