Sparkling wine is the star performer of the UK off-trade, with volume sales up 18% and values rising 15.4% (IRI, year to March 2016).
That has been driven by Prosecco, which is up 34% and has really propped up the entire wine category.
But demand for Prosecco is high, prices are rising and Sainsbury’s even had to scrap an offer of the Italian bubbly this month.
That could open the door for rival regions and Bouvet Ladubay – which produces 6 million bottles of sparkling wine from Saumur each year – believes it can offer shoppers a high-quality alternative.
Exports from Saumur to the UK are flat in terms of volume but up 3% in value (Inter Loire), suggesting the region can buck the trend of volume outstripping value in a heavily promoted sparkling category.
Juliette Monmousseau, chief executive at Bouvet Ladubay, told OLN: “People now are drinking bubbles more regularly. That’s a positive thing: I am happy that people now want fizz on more occasions, instead of just ordering still wine.
“Loire sparkling has been in the UK forever. It has always been a Loire market. Ten years ago sales dipped. There are not that many retailers that showcase Loire sparkling. Prosecco has taken a huge part of the market.”
When asked why retailers should stock Saumur sparkling wine, she said: “Make a difference. Bring something different to the table. The style of sparkling wine we produce is light and crisp and mineral. It has a great identity and a very specific terroir. It’s approachable but it doesn’t vanish after the first sip. It stays with you, but it’s not overwhelming – it’s got lightness and complexity.”
Majestic stocks its white, rosé and Rubis sparkling wines, and Bouvet Ladubay has further listings at Justerini & Brooks and some independents.
The firm was set in 1851 by Etienne Bouvet and Celestine Ladubay, and bought by the Monmousseau in 1932. The family has managed it ever since, but sold the business to Champagne Taittinger in 1974.
It was sold to Starwood and then to United Spirits, and became part of the Diageo portfolio when the British drinks giant acquired United Spirits.
When Diageo decided to sell off its wine arm – including selling Blossom Hill and its California portfolio to Treasury Wine Estates – the family took the opportunity to buy back the company and wrapped up a deal last year.
Patrice Monmousseau retained his role of president, which he has held since 1972, and his daughter Juliette became chief executive, eight years after joining the business.
It is one of the largest producers of sparkling wine in France and one of the largest shippers and she believes it is time for it to make inroads into the UK market.
A particular success already has been winning a permanent listing for its Rubis, a £13.49 sparkling Cabernet Franc that was included as a novelty item before Christmas but performed so well it has earned a spot on shelves at the retailer
“Since their sparkling wine category is doing so well they are looking for different things from different places,” said Monmousseau. “With our Rubis they thought the fruit was really there. The dosage is not there to cover up the wine. It enhances the fruit.”