Champagne and sparkling wine are on a roll lately, outpacing wine overall for a 4.1% total volume increase in 2014, with continued growth underway this year. On-premise, however, the story is quite different: The category barely gained volume, posting a mere 0.4% increase, according to our recently completed study, On-Premise Wine: Opportunities, Challenges and Innovations.
Why the pop at retail but barely a blip on-premise? The slow restaurant market likely was an issue last year, but as we see momentum picking up somewhat in 2015, operators should look to tap into the growing appeal of sparklers.
Some restaurants are already doing so on their cocktail menus. Yard House showcases three sparkling cocktails involving Prosecco—Elderflower, Grapefruit and Raspberry—while Old Spaghetti Factory offers a Lemon Basil Sparkler featuring limoncello, fresh basil and lemon and Prosecco. Others are providing Champagne and sparkling wines ranging from $20 to upwards of $300 per bottle, along with by-the-glass options. While Champagne occupies the largest share of menu space, Prosecco is the fastest-growing style.
At retail, sparklers are earning shelf space and merchandising displays, and not just around the holidays. During the first week of warmer temperatures, my local wine shop put a variety of accessibly priced sparkling wines front and center with a spring-themed display suggesting Bellinis and other bubbly cocktails, complete with recipes but sans any specific holiday hook. Although I didn’t enter the store bent on buying bubbly, I couldn’t resist and purchased a bottle.
Promotions and menu suggestions that position sparkling wines as appropriate for everyday occasions can help on-premise operators cash in on the category’s momentum at retail. Suggestive selling by servers and bartenders can also prompt patrons to consider sparkling wine. At any price point, a glass of Champagne or sparkling wine, or an effervescent cocktail, can serve as an uplifting and affordable indulgence.