It becomes an increasingly difficult decision every Mother’s Day: whether to choose domestic or imported bubbles to celebrate the occasion. While Australia is one of the biggest markets for Champagne in the world, we’re also rapidly becoming one of the most respected producers of sparkling wine.
Confirmation came in December when Tasmania’s House of Arras, EJ Carr Late Disgorged 2004 was named sparkling wine of the year in Decanter, one of the world’s leading wine publications, beating the best France had to offer.
It’s been the goal of House of Arras winemaker Ed Carr to create an Australian sparkling that can hold its own against Champagne since he founded the vineyard in 1995.
Carr noted to Drinks Digest editor Alana House in 2018 that Australians are becoming increasingly appreciative of how well Australian sparkling stacks up against Champagne.
“Ever year you see more acceptance,” he said. “Sparkling wine is perhaps a little harder to understand than still wine, so consumers will often focus on brand and choose a Champagne with a familiar label. You just need to get them to taste a great Australian sparkling and they’re converts.”
The growing appreciation for Australian sparkling wine is being reflected in its sales: the total wine market in Australia has grown by 10%, with the premium domestic sparkling wine growing ahead of the total wine category, up 19.7%, increasing the share for premium domestic sparkling from 5% to 5.4% (MAT 28/03/21).
“We believe that premiumisation is driving that growth,” said Jack Glover, Marketing Director Accolade Wines ANZ. “Australian consumers are drinking less, but drinking better because we have seen a rise in celebration occasions occurring at home due to closures of on-premise venues during COVID.”
Glover said Accolade Wines has seen strong results across its sparkling portfolio, with the company driving total sparkling category growth of +25.3% vs total sparkling category +20.2%.
“We are the number one premium domestic sparkling supplier, with our +$15 portfolio driving growth of +35.4% vs category at +19.2% (+$15 sparkling excluding champagne),” Glover added.
“We have a range of sparkling brands throughout our portfolio and we have seen all our key sparkling brands in growth including our total House of Arras portfolio, Grant Burge Pinot Noir Chardonnay, Croser Vintage and Yarra Burn.”
Another macro trend influenced by our changing lifestyle and consumption occasions has seen the growth of light and refreshing styles, including domestic prosecco (+19.4%) and sparkling rose varietals (+31.3%) is also driving category growth.
In the lead up to Mother’s Day, those numbers have been driven even higher.
“Mother’s Day is certainly a key seasonal occasion within the sparkling category,” Glover said. “It is the ninth sales week of the year in value for premium domestic sparkling, the sixth week of the year for Accolade Wines sparkling sales and the sixth week of the year for total sparkling rose.”
The favourites within the Accolade Wines portfolio in the lead up to Mother’s Day are the Grant Burge Pinot Noir Chardonnay range including Rose, Croser (NV and Vintage), Yarra Burn Vintage and, of course, House of Arras.
“Australians have really embraced sparkling during COVID, more than other regions we have seen and we are sure the celebration of Mother’s Day will continue this love for our local sparkling products,” Glover concluded.
Scott Bowie, Marketing Director of Moët Hennessy Australia & New Zealand, said the growing appreciation for Australian sparkling had been a factor in the company introducing a new look for Chandon as it celebrates 35 years in Australia.
The re-imagined Chandon branding features simplified graphics and bold new styling that link back to the pioneering origins of the House, which flies the flag as the only Australian sparkling specialist with genuine French heritage.
“We are finding that consumers are actively seeking high quality products that are versatile for both everyday celebrations and special occasions, and premium sparkling wine is ideal for this,” he explained. “Chandon recently unveiled the new brand revamp with the aim to satisfy these needs through newly designed products with a quality look and feel.”
Pink bubbles drive new growth
Pink bubbles have also been a source of booming sales, with IRI reporting in 2020 the segment was growing three times faster than total sparkling wine for the year.
While rosé Champagne was the key driver of growth, up more than 25% in value for the year, rosé sparkling was also out-performing the rest of the sparkling wine segment, with value growing five times faster than sparkling sub-segment (excluding Champagne) – resulting in nearly $11 in every $100 allocated to sparkling now being spent on a rosé varietal, up $2 in two years.
For Mother’s Day 2020, two products contributed almost 85% of annual segment growth: Bird In Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir and Grant Burge Sparkling Pinot Rosé, which was only launched in November 2019.
Bowie said Chandon had experienced “substantial growth” in sparkling rosé.
“As people look to discover new parts of sparkling while tapping into the rosé trend we still see significantly in wine and now in sparkling as well,” he said.
“For Mother’s Day, we find that there’s a strong skew toward both rosé Champagne and sparkling. Our biggest sellers would be Moët Imperial Rose and Chandon Rose NV.”
Tony Bongiovanni, from Cellarbrations at Gisborne, agrees that whether the bubbles are white or pink, his customers can’t get enough of them. He said Tasmanian sparkling wines are leading the charge in the new post-COVID retail liquor landscape, along with quality prosecco. And customers are prepared to pay a higher price for a decent drop.
“Our figures show it’s goodbye to budget and lower-priced sparkling wines and hello to quality, higher-priced Australian sparkling, prosecco and Champagne,” he said.