April 18, 2021

Growth in fortified wine sales during lockdown gives hope that Christmas traditions are alive and well

Fortified wines enjoyed their best off-trade sales quarter for over five years, leading to optimism that this Christmas could see further growth for perhaps the most traditional of yuletide drinks.

Latest numbers from the WSTA’s Market Report show that over the 12 weeks to 3rd October 2020 around 8m bottles of fortified wines like port and sherry were sold in shops and supermarkets, worth £56m.

Sales of these Christmas favourites grew by 9% in volume terms and increased 14% in value, leading to the WSTA to declare that the category is alive and well after years of decline, and is poised to have an even stronger festive season.

A sherry aperitif or a glass of port with cheese are traditions enjoyed by the Brits dating back centuries, and a sales slump over recent years has been reversed as we look to traditional comforts during this most difficult of years.

With this growth occurring in the late Summer and into the Autumn, and the festive season still to come, the WSTA is predicting a bumper year for fortified wines.

Much of 2020 has been spent with onerous restrictions on the hospitality industry, and over the last 12 months, sales of fortified wines in pubs, bars and restaurants equated to around 429,000 bottles, worth £18m.

Whilst these on-trade numbers are 42% down in volume terms and 39% down in value terms on the previous 12 months, and include the traditionally strong festive trading period for 2019, the figures are in line with other categories that have seen sales drop by around 40% in on-trade venues.

The WSTA has attributed this sales decline to the slow strangulation of the hospitality sector, with consumer confidence low and venues repeatedly forced to close as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

Despite struggling on-trade sales, fortified wines enjoyed overall growth, with the entire category over the last 12 months equating to 40.4m bottles worth £303m. This compares with 39m bottles worth £270m in 2019, and is the best performance for ports and sherries for five years.

“In such a difficult year, the news that we have been enjoying more ports and sherries at home recently to arrest slow stagnation in the category is welcome,” says Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said. “It’s a boost – just in time for Christmas.

“During lockdown, and into the summer months when there were still restrictions on hospitality businesses, consumers turned to trusted, traditional favourites and that’s exactly what we’ve seen in the sales data for fortified wines.

“Fortified wines can often be overlooked, but they are incredibly versatile. They come in many forms and are used in a variety of cocktails, and can also be savoured on their own. The trend is positive for these Christmas classics, and it’s likely that the category will continue to benefit as we approach the most popular time for sherries and ports. Santa loves his sherry, and in 2020 many consumers will also be rekindling their festive love affairs with fortifieds!”