Taste for champagne falls flat as half of Britons put £10 cap on fizz

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Taste for champagne falls flat as half of Britons put £10 cap on fizz” was written by Rob Walker, for The Guardian on Friday 24th November 2017 16.50 UTC

More than half of Britons now baulk at spending more than £10 on a bottle of sparkling wine, as prosecco and cava leave the taste for French champagne flat.

Just two years ago only 39% of people said they would cap their fizz spending at a tenner. But the latest figures show 53% will not spend more than £10 on a bottle.

“Cheap fizz has brought sparkling wine to the masses, and that has to be a good thing,” said Richard Siddle, the founder of The Buyer, a drinks website. “It has made people question why they should spend so much more on champagne.”

Women are more careful about their spending than men – 58% won’t part with a penny over £10, compared with 48% of men. Only one in four of us shops in the £10-20 bracket, according to Mintel, the research firm that carried out the survey.

“The snooty end of the wine market may not like to admit it, but without the boom in cheap fizz the wine industry and specialist wine merchants would be in long- term decline,”, Siddle said.

Britons now spend more on wines like prosecco and cava than they do on French champagne, something that would have seemed unthinkable five years ago. Data group Euromonitor puts spending on champagne at £1.2bn versus £1.1bn.

We are popping almost 10m bottles a month of prosecco alone – far more than any other country in the world – according to Prosecco DOC, the wine’s official trade body.

The softer, slightly sweeter taste of these wines is more in tune with the UK palate than champagne, said Barney Davis, the head of commercial operations at Lanchester Wines, one of the UK’s leading wine importers. “And of course the price makes it even more attractive,” he said.

Davis believes the thriftiness is a hangover from the recession.

“Consumers still want the champagne lifestyle but with a lemonade, or rather a prosecco, budget,” he said.

The thriftiest of them all are baby boomers (born 1946-64). According to the survey, more than two-thirds said they are not prepared to pay more than £10 for a bottle of sparkling, compared with 41% of the so-called millennials, aged between 18 and 37.

One potentially bad scenario, said Moez Seraly, the founder of online wine retailer Sipp, is that rampant demand for cheap fizz could soon start to outstrip supply, pushing up prices and potentially even tempting producers “to cut corners” to achieve the same level of pricing.

At Ten Green Bottles, a wine bar-cum-retail outlet in Brighton, punters attend wine-tasting sessions to learn the differences between an English sparkling, an artisanal prosecco and a French crémant.

None of the sparkling wines on offer comes cheap – but owner Simon Broad agrees that cheap fizz has revolutionised the perception of sparkling wine – and ripped through its elitism.

“It’s fizz for everyone and you can drink it whenever you like,” he says.

The coolest trend at the moment, he says, is sparkling riesling – “you have that nice blend of lovely fresh acidity, but you get this soft creaminess with it as well”.

At about £20 a bottle, though, chances are it won’t be flying off the shelves.

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