Wine trends for Christmas amid cautious optimism

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As retailers gear up and stock up for Christmas in the midst of supply chain problems that have hit the food and drink sector, independent supplier Kingsland Drinks is anticipating a big festival season, with all the build-up, gatherings, dinners and celebrations, as people missed out on the festivities last year.

“There’s a wave of cautious optimism about Christmas 2021 with many Brits hoping for a return to traditional festivities, parties, dinners and gatherings,” Charles Overin, Kingsland Drinks’ head of marketing, brand and insights, commented, while sharing his predictions for the wines set to win this season.

“Rosé DOC Prosecco has really been the drink of 2021 and we’re expecting great things from it this Christmas. It’s likely to be a top seller as it’s the first full Christmas period since it became legal in the UK in November 2020,” he says.

Kingsland’s partner producer Borgo Molino has got off to a great start in the UK, he adds, with bottles of Corte Molino Rose flying of Co-op shelves.

Prosecco overall is in growth, growing in value 14.5 percent, while total sparkling is up 19 percent in value. Crémant has also seen growth in recent years and is up 70 percent in value compared to this time last year [IRI, 52 w/e 08.08.21].

“It’s an excellent value alternative to Champagne and set to be popular for Christmas celebrations,” Overin says.

Charles Overin

He predicts that the bag in box (BIB) wine format, which became popular during the pandemic restrictions, is a trend that is here to stay.

“Wine shoppers have come into the BIB category over recent years, and while the country was under Covid restrictions, many have recognised the benefits of BIB and are likely to continue purchasing and embracing the benefits over the busy Christmas season,” he says.

The UK bag in box category is currently worth £355 million, and has grown eight percent over the last 52 weeks [IRI, 52 w/e 08.08.21].

The quality, convenience and value for money that boxed wine brings, as well as the lasting freshness for weeks once it is opened, has been a winner for the format. Boxed wine also brings environmental and sustainability benefits, which will attract consumers taking steps to make more eco-friendly choices.

Magnums are also a popular choice at Christmas, he adds, as they bring a real sense of occasion and are suitable for gifting too.

Overin also counts smaller formats as favorites in the run up to Christmas, with canned alcoholic drinks fit perfectly for group gatherings, especially among younger generations.

“They’re portable, can be consumed directly from the can, and can be disposed of and recycled easily. While they only account for a small percentage of the category at the moment, brands are working to bring in new shoppers and to create a loyal fan base. With growth of canned wines currently up 52 percent in value year on year, we’re confident Christmas will be a key period for cans,” he explains.

He suggests brands like Vin Crowd and Mix Up as great options for party-goers who may be shopping for drinks to take with them to enjoy with friends, or for on their way to a festive gathering. Both brands are vegan friendly, clearly signposted on the packaging, and no single use plastics are used in the production of these products. In addition, they fit into trends for lower abv (5% abv) and lower calorie drinks.

Overin says European wines really shine at Christmas. “The classics, such as Rioja, are always popular at this time of year, as consumers often look for something a bit more special and they are willing to spend that little bit extra,” he says.

However, he expects great things from new styles and new varietals as consumers have been branching out into with wines from Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova during the pandemic.

“This part of the world is often overlooked when it comes to wine production but huge strides have been made among winemakers striving to elevate the quality credentials of their wines and become internationally recognised, appreciated and celebrated,” Overin comments.

Kingsland will be launching some Bulgarian wines this Christmas, and they have recently entered into a new partnership with the second largest and one of the most awarded Romanian wine producers – The Iconic Estate, member of the Alexandrion Group.

A comprehensive Romanian range will be available to UK independent and convenience retailers under clearly defined brands – Rhea, Byzantium, and Hyperion – and at three price points, entry, mid and premium.

Sustainability is a watchword when it comes to wine, from production and transportation to sourcing and packaging, as the consumer is increasingly switched on. Overin says Covid has only accelerated interest in drinks that deliver both in terms of taste and quality, but also present the opportunity to buy into a brand that’s dedicated to reduce its footprint.

“Australian wine producers have some excellent ranges in the market, and innovations and projects in the pipeline which meet these needs head on,” he notes.

“Andrew Peace Wines, Australia, have really gone from strength to strength during the pandemic thanks to the accessibility of the wines, and clearly defined sustainability ambitions. The Murray River winery is committed to minimising its impact on the environment, improving the sustainability of its operations and has become a member of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia with the aim of having the facility certified within the next six months.

“Additionally, we are proud to be working with The Hidden Sea to bring their exciting range of wines to the UK. The Hidden Sea launched a global campaign with ReSea Project to protect the world’s oceans and remove one billion plastic bottles from the ocean by 2030 and the wines are available to independent retailers now.”