Britons have lost their taste for these favourites of Christmas past

Francesca Washtell
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Christmas Dinner
Nan will probably have to resort to getting tipsy on the prosecco this year (Source: Getty)

Christmas 2016 may have been marked by the rise of craft beer and gin advent calendars (yes, really), and a season when we cracked open £2bn worth of bubbly, but spare a thought for the traditional tipples we're leaving behind.

Despite being a Christmas staple, Britons have lost their taste for the fortified wines of port, sherry and vermouth, as their sales have more than halved in the last 10 years.

In 2005 more than 61m litres, the equivalent of just over 82m bottles, of fortified wines were sold in the UK. This plummeted to just over 26m litres, or 35m bottles, last year – a drop of 50m bottles in a decade, according to research from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) and Mentzendorff.

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Although sales of sherry have more than halved from 22m bottles in 2005 to 10m a decade later, the Martini and Negroni ingredient vermouth has suffered even more, with sales plummeting from 16m bottles sold in 2005 to just 6m last year.

For port, all might not be lost – last year sales had begun to show signs of recovery and were up on 2014 rates. (And for those wanting to try a tipple, the world's oldest port brand is now available in Waitrose.)

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Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA said:

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.

It is vital that government comes out in support of the wine trade which as a whole generates £17.3bn in economic activity.

The WSTA has pointed to the "punishing effect" of Britain's harsh alcohol duty rate for leaving a sour taste in fortified wine drinkers' mouths.

Since 2007, fortified wine duty increased 53 per cent (adding around £1 to a bottle of port or sherry). A steady decline in the volumes of traditional wines sold in the UK mirrored a rise in the duty rate, until the freeze for wine in the March 2015 Budget (see chart below).

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