Sherry sales in UK fall by more than half to 10m bottles

Traditional sherries and port have lost out to more fashionable drinks such as sparkling wine and gin, trade body says

Bottles of fino in a Spanish restaurant

Spanish fino and manzanilla sherries are bucking the trend of declining sherry sales.
Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Sales of Grandma’s favourite Christmas tipple, sherry, have slumped in the past decade.

Sherry and port have been losing out to more fashionable drinks such as sparkling wine and gin, both of which have seen booming sales this year.

Sales of sherry fell to 10m bottles last year in the UK, less than half the 22m sold in 2005, and the pace of decline has stepped up in the past year, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

Sales of fortified wine, which also includes port, vermouth and madeira, fell by 5% in the year to 5 November, to 315 hectolitres, and the pace of decline rose to 7% in the last three months of that period.

Sales of fortified wine in restaurants and bars was also down in the three months to October, by 4% year on year, a turnaround from growth seen earlier in the year.

Fine sherries, such as the drier fino and manzanilla styles popular in Spain, have seen strong growth in recent years, boosted by a trend for sherry bars and tapas. Sainsbury’s said its sales of premium sherries were up 14% year on year. But sales of traditional cream sherries, which far outsell the other types – particularly at Christmas – have ebbed.

A spokesman for market researcher Wine Intelligence said sherry sales were down as “the generation raised on cream sherry is growing smaller and fortified wines are relegated to bottom shelves hidden from view”. Its research shows that just 10% of 25- to 34-year-olds drink sherry compared with 34% of over-65s.

The WSTA blames falling sales on increasing taxation. It says that since 2007, fortified wine duty has increased by 53%, adding £1 to a bottle of port or sherry. The industry is likely to come under further pressure from the fall in the value of the pound, which makes importing wine from Europe more expensive.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, called on the government to cut back taxes on fortified wine: “Whether it’s the sherry shared as an aperitif or left out for Santa, a port to accompany the cheese course at the end of Christmas lunch or vermouth shaken or stirred in a classic martini – these drinks have been enjoyed by the British for centuries. It would be incredibly sad to see the British traditions associated with these drinks, which have been passed down through the generations, disappear.”

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