Bubbly binge sweeps Australia

This article first appeared on the Daily Telegraphy on December 19, 2007

By Nicki Bourlioufas

Australians love their wine and are splurging on bubbly. Forget the red wine or VB , sparkling is the pick, with winemakers even offering ‘low-calorie’ bubbles as waistlines bulge around the nation.

Heading into Christmas, more and more corks will be popped. The economy is strong, the share market is booming, we’re fully employed and we’re ready to spend on the good things in life.

And winemakers are meeting the demand with new products.

From Foster’s Jewel, being marketed as being “light on calories” under its Yellowglen range to Domain Chandon’s Z*D, standing for zero dosage, the sparkling market is developing a beat.

For those who prefer sparkling red, Primo Estate’s Joseph is a good one for the Christmas hamper.

“Coming into the festive season more than any other time, people turn to sparkling wine to celebrate – be it a day at the races, Christmas lunch or an end of year get together,” says Sharon Trevelyan, a brand manager for sparkling wine for drinks giant Pernod Ricard, the company behind such labels as Jacob’s Creek.

“We are also experiencing a buoyant market and sparkling wines are, of course, associated with fun, success and celebration,” she says.

Sales of sparkling wine are easily outstripping still wine sales. While sales of table wine plunged by 2.2 per cent over the year to October, while bubbly purchases were up 3.5 per cent as people flocked to fizzy wine.

Glory to good taste

Ed Carr, group sparkling winemaker of the Hardy Wine Company, says we’re popping the cork more than ever and the flow of bubbles is tasting better than ever. We no longer need to buy expensive Champagne from France to get a good drop. We’re buying local instead.

“Consumers now understand that a special occasion is not essential to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine.

“The quality of Australian sparkling wines has continued to improve over the years, with many premium sparklings now able to rival the world’s best,” says Carr.

“From our approachable Omni through to prestige sparkling Arras, bottle fermentation is used to tailor maturation for maximum character and flavour,” he says.

Cost no barrier

Jenny Nolch, general marketing manager of sparkling wine for Foster’s, the company behind the Yellowglen, Killawarra and Seview bubbly labels, expects sales to keep booming as says consumers are connecting with the sparkling category “like never before.”

“More than ever before, Australian consumers are prepared to pay a greater price premium for home grown bubbles,” she says. “As society becomes less formal so too does the way we enjoy our sparkling.”

Indeed, with a booming economy, “consumers are trading up at all levels of consumption, such as – cars, electronics, wine, beer and spirits. It happens when economies are booming,” says Matt Redin, marketing manager for Angove’s, which imports the premium Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte into Australia.

“In the short time we have been distibuting it we have had over 120 per cent growth year-on-year.”

Nolch says innovation is vitally important. Yellowglen Jewel, Australia’s first dedicated low calorie sparkling wine, has captured consumers’ imagination and is selling extremely well.

“The new ‘bubbly light’ segment recently pioneered by Yellowglen with the Jewel launch will provide a platform as competitors enter this new space for “better for you” sparklings,” she says.

“Given the innovative nature of the Australian wine industry, you will see Australia carving its own niche globally for sparkling wine rather than simply copying the French. Just as our table wines have captured the imagination of the world, so to could our sparkling.

“Within the next five years you will see the emergence of the ultra premium Australian wine market, with price tags in excess of $100 per bottle,” she says.

Ditching the RTDs

Younger people are also flocking to sparkling wine, attracted by fruiter flavours and popular Rosé styles. Pink bubbles are appearing on shop shelves as quickly as the stackers can get them up there.

“People are moving into the sparkling wine category as this is being driven by the more sophisticated young person moving out of RTDs (ready-to-drink beverages) into sparkling wine,” says Ross Brown, chief executive of Brown Brothers winery.

“What is also happening is that here is a broader range of sparkling wine that is being offered, in particular, more fruity styles,” says Brown.

Rosé sparkling wine is leading sales for the overall sparkling category as consumers demand new products.

“We have seen some new trends emerge. Sparkling Rosé, for example, has been very successful by offering something a little different to consumers and we are seeing a real trend in this area. Ideal as a summer aperitif, consumers are increasingly turning to Rosé,” says Pernod Ricard’s Trevelyan.


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