Many people regard sherry as old-fashioned and suitable only for wedding reception lines, cooking or as a drink of last resort. Vermouth has carved itself a profitable niche as a cocktail base, yet other fortified wines have struggled to stay modern and relevant. This makes volume sales of well produced product difficult to achieve.
Consumers are increasingly comfortable buying a wide range of wines, based on an increasing understanding of varietals, and gaining confidence from choosing new products from within a brand family they trust. However, with sherry consumers are less confident.
Sherry should have potential for growth in the UK. Britain is already sherry’s biggest market, but sherry sales are growing much slower than those of light wines. Jancis Robinson , the popular wine writer and presenter describes sherry as “The world’s most neglected wine treasure”. Whilst Matt Skinner, the Jamie Oliver endorsed wine critic claims “Sherry is back and it’s really, really good!”
There is therefore no problem with the quality of the product, and with sales declining elsewhere, availability is assured. Sherry shares an advantage with Champagne of having a protected name and a defined region for production, centred around Jerez.
Major advertising investment of the scale seen in the branded wine industry is unlikely. Diageo has sold Croft, and Allied Domecq has made little effort to promote sherry. Sherry produces have not been acquired by major players. Tio Pepe has relaunched itself, with some support from its parent Gonzales Byass, but a major push from its UK distributor, First Drinks. It has done so not by emphasising the intrinsic benefits of sherry, but by positioning Fino as a ‘very dry white wine’.
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