Port and sherry sales halved between 2005 and 2015 due to the high alcohol duty

Courtney Goldsmith
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Bubbly sales are reaching new heights this year, but fortified wine sales have slumped
Bubbly sales are reaching new heights this year, but fortified wine sales have slumped (Source: Getty)

Sherry might be Santa's favourite drink, but new research suggests its popularity has slipped dramatically over the past decade.

Port and sherry sales halved between 2005 and 2015, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA).

In 2005, the equivalent of more than 82m bottles of fortified wines, which includes port, sherry and vermouth, were sold in the UK, but by 2015 that number had dropped to just over 35m.

Last year, sherry sales had fallen to almost 10m bottles compared with 22m in 2005.

Read more: Sparkling wine and champagne sales set to bubble up to £2bn over Christmas

Port's sales dropped 26 per cent from 10m bottles to almost 8m in the same period. Sales of port have started to recover slightly as 2015 was up on 2014.

The biggest loss recorded, however, was vermouth, which sold more than 16m bottles in 2005, but just under 6m in 2015.

The WSTA said vermouth is a key ingredient in a martini and is paired with gin in a negroni, but the popularity of James Bond and the current gin craze have failed to lift sales.

Industry experts said the slump is partly due to Britain’s fortified wine duty rate, which has increased 53 per cent since 2007, adding £1 to a bottle of port and sherry.

In March 2015, the duty for wine was frozen, which helped stabilise volumes, said the WSTA.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, said it would be sad to see the British traditions associated with these classic drinks disappear.

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.

Fortified wine sales proved to be less popular with younger drinkers. The WSTA said 16 per cent of 18-24 year olds and 20 per cent of 25-34 year olds say they have drunk port this year, compared with 27 per cent of over 55s, according to a new YouGov poll.

Read more: Britain is set to become a top wine producing region by the year 2100

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