english sparkling wine bottle with global market trends
  • English Sparkling Wine in the Global Market: Trends and Opportunities

Featured Image Caption: English Sparkling Wine Bottle with Global Market Trends

From international shows to specialised dinners, there’s no doubt that English sparkling wine is very much seen as a serious contender to Champagne and other established sparkling wine regions. With its cool climate, chalky soils, and an ever-growing expertise, English wine producers are producing a quality of sparkling that’s turning heads and winning awards on the world stage. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the trends and opportunities that will shape the future of English sparkling wine.

The Rise of English Sparkling Wine

England has a wine-producing history dating back to the Romans, yet it is only in the past 30 or so years that the country has established itself as a producer of quality sparkling wine. The modern era of English sparkling wine is said to have begun with the planting of the classic Champagne grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) by pioneering producers such as Nyetimber and Ridgeview in the late 1980s, with a clear intention to make traditional method sparkling wines to rival those of Champagne.

The English wine industry has grown exponentially since then, but sparkling wine – 71 per cent of the English and Welsh planting now – is the category that will explode. Production has grown from around 1 million bottles in 2015 to over 10 million in 2018. All analysis predict an eventual figure of 40 million bottles in 2040. A synergy of climate, finance and quality will fuel the climb.

Climate change has been a significant driver of the emergence of English sparkling wine. The cool, marginal climate has always made it a struggle to ripen grapes in England, but the past few decades have been warmer than average, making it possible to grow the Champagne varieties successfully. The average growing season temperature in Southeast England, where the majority of vineyards are located, has increased by around 1°C since 1970, giving the vines extra warmth to help them fully ripen.

Meanwhile, savvy producers have been working towards making good wine, with many investing in world-class winemaking facilities. Secondary fermentation in the bottle with extended lees ageing is used by nearly all English sparkling wine producers, as it is in Champagne, ensuring the same process that builds subtlety and nuance. Several producers, including Nyetimber and Ridgeview, have brought in Champagne expertise to ensure this.

The outcome has been a catalogue of critical acclaim and international trophies. English sparkling wines have consistently come above Champagne in blind tastings, and have beaten some of the top cuvées from major Champagne houses. In recent years, English sparkling wines have won trophies and golds in the Decanter World Wine Awards, the International Wine Challenge and the Champagne Sparkling Wine World Championships.

The rise in such recognition has played a role in elevating English sparkling wine not just at home, but also abroad: sales of English and Welsh wine have exceeded all expectations in the five years since 2015, hitting an all-time peak (so far) of £132 million in 2020, with sparkling wines representing 68 percent of the volume of all English and Welsh wine sold in the UK. Exports are still small but growing rapidly, led by the US, Japan, and the Scandinavian countries.

Trends Shaping the English Sparkling Wine Market

These are the trends that I see shaping the emergence of English sparkling wine as a real force, as it grows up.


Another notable trend in the English sparkling wine market is premiumisation. Already an inherently premium product, thanks to its cool climate and low yields, labour-intensive methods, and the optimum positioning of the southern half of England facing the sun, most English sparkling wines sell for £25-35 ($30-45) a bottle. But many makers are now stretching further upmarket, with prestige cuvées and limited-edition bottlings selling for £50-100 or even more.

A combination of rising quality, growing demand, and a drive to position English sparkling wine as a luxury product on a par with Champagne are all encouraging this trend. Some of the best producers, such as Nyetimber and Chapel Down, have already launched tiered ranges to address different segments of the market.

At the same time, however, there is also an increasing emphasis on terroir, and on site-specific wines. Many producers are exploring the potential of their vineyards and looking to single-vineyard and single-varietal bottlings to establish the diversity of the English terroir, which is helping to create a more nuanced and differentiated market for these wines.

Sustainability and Organic Production

A second notable development among English producers is the emergence of sustainability and organic production. England’s cool, wet climate creates vulnerability to both downy and powdery mildew, fungal diseases that can require multiple sprayings with fungicides in a year. However, some producers are moving towards more holistic, environmentally friendly ways of working.

Some, such as Albury Organic Vineyard and Oxney Organic Estate, are now wholly organic, abandoning synthetic chemicals to substitute with natural compost teas, sheep manure, beneficial bacteria and cover crops; others such as Nyetimber and Rathfinny are using integrated pest management programmes that reduce spraying and enhance biodiversity on the vineyard.

There is also an increasing openness to regenerative farming and carbon sequestration. Roebuck Estates also works with no-till farming and cover cropping, which they say improves soil health and sequesters carbon in the soil. Hattingley Valley has made significant investments in renewable energy and water-conservation measures.

As well as being good for the environment, these efforts chime with consumers who are increasingly concerned about sustainability and the environment – a phrase that has become rather hackneyed. English sparkling wine producers can also differentiate themselves in the market by exploiting the opportunity to showcase their use of sustainable and organic practices.

Tourism and Direct-to-Consumer Sales

A third is that, as production scales up, tourism and direct-to-consumer sales will become more significant. The combination of spectacular countryside, stately homes and royal palaces, and proximity to London make the English wine region a popular destination for wine tourism, and producers are investing in tasting rooms, restaurants, and accommodation to attract tourists and bolster revenue.

Rathfinny Wine Estate in Sussex, planted by the owner of the Brighton racecourse, includes a cutting-edge winery and visitor centre, a restaurant and guest rooms overlooking the vines, and, considering the south coast is an hour from Calais on a good day, is expected to export the majority of its production. Chapel Down in Kent has a busy restaurant and shop, a gin distillery and a brewery, and Hattingley Valley in Hampshire offers tours and tastings, together with an annual programme of events and festivities to do with wine.

These investments are not just promoting the profile of English wine, but also creating new cashflows and routes to market, often enabling direct-to-consumer sales where the producer can capture a larger share of the value chain. Increasingly, producers report that they can sell a large percentage of their production in the cellar door to increase their profitability.

The trend has been sped up by the COVID-19 pandemic, which obliterated traditional sales chains and forced producers to pivot towards online and direct-to-consumer sales. For example, Chapel Down and Nyetimber have both reported sharply increased online sales this year as consumers sought to support their local producers when they were unable to dine out.

Opportunities for Growth

Looking forward, there are a number of potential avenues for development in the English sparkling wine business:

Expanding Production and Distribution

The greatest opportunity for English sparkling wine is to increase production and distribution to keep up with demand. Sparkling wine consumption in the UK is forecast to rise by 6 per cent a year through to 2028. This means that, in the face of such growth, English producers can hope to make further inroads into the domestic market. Overseas, there’s also the possibility to increase exports to the US, Japan and Scandinavia (where English sparkling wine remains under the radar but is gaining ground).

To take advantage of this opportunity, producers will need to invest in planting more vines and expanding production facilities, alongside developing export and distribution channels at home and abroad. Some, including Chapel Down and Rathfinny, have already announced plans to double or triple production levels over the next few years.

Diversifying Styles and Price Points

A third point is that English sparkling wine really needs to diversify its styles and price points in order to go mainstream. The traditional method has, understandably, dominated, but there is room to experiment with other styles (pet-nats, charmat method, even still wines) to offer cheaper and more accessible alternatives.

Others, such as Hush Heath Estate and Bolney Wine Estate, make still wines as well as sparkling, while others such as the well-known Fitz English Sparkling Wine utilise the charmat method to make sparkling wines that are in the region of £13 to compete with prosecco and other entry-level offerings.

Diversifying producer lists to offer something for everyone, including a variety of styles and price points, helps English wine producers appeal to a wider segment of the market.

Collaborating and Promoting the Category

At last, English sparkling wine producers can have both on their side, by working together for the good of the category as a whole. Individually, the individual brands are still crucial but, to reach the critical and commercial potential, building the reputation of English sparkling wine as a distinctive quality category is also essential.

This could involve wine organisations such as WineGB, a trade body that represents the UK sector, hosting or supporting events, launching marketing campaigns and delivering wine-education schemes. But perhaps more can be achieved if producers work closer together, too, on research and development; sustainability; and how they market their wines.

If they pull together to champion the category and build its reputation, this will create a rising tide to lift all boats – and establish England as a quality sparkling wine region.


In just a few weeks, English sparkling wine has gone from being something you have never considered to contemplating whether you can drink it instead of Champagne. There are sound, tangible reasons for this remarkable surge in fortunes. English wine has a cool climate, which is optimal for sparkling wine. And there is chalky soil, also good for sparkling wines. Over the past three to four years, English winemakers have raised their game to the point where, in blind tastings, the best can go head to head with the world’s greatest sparkling wines and come out on top.

While it’s still a young industry, some clear trends are beginning to take shape that may help guide its path forward: premiumisation, sustainability and organic production, and tourism and direct-to-consumer sales. At the same time, many opportunities for growth exist: increasing production and distribution, diversifying styles and price points, and working together to promote the category.

There are, of course, hurdles to be overcome: the high cost of production, building awareness of the brand and distribution networks, to name a few. For everyone in the English sparkling wine scene, it’s a heady prospect. But for the moment, I will continue my quest for the best of British in the supermarket aisles, while French icons such as Louis Roederer blend my English grapes into their Champagnes. England may well soon become a prime source for some of the world’s finest bubbles and, who knows, perhaps in time it will surpass the Champagne region, too.

Mellissa McMurdock

By Mellissa McMurdock
– the owner of Online Marketing Help, a leading digital marketing agency based in the UK. With a passion for driving growth and innovation, I specialize in creating tailored marketing strategies that elevate brands and engage audiences. My expertise spans SEO, social media, content marketing, and more, allowing businesses to thrive in the digital landscape. At Online Marketing Help, my team and I are dedicated to delivering measurable results and exceptional client service, helping businesses achieve their online potential.

Member since June, 2024
View all the articles of Mellissa McMurdock.

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