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Non-alcoholic wines gaining popularity on New Year’s

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When some four million corks explode on the New Year’s Eve in the Czech Republic, many will come from the bottles with non-alcoholic content. For the first time this year, all the major sparkling wine producers are offering non-alcoholic options. Local consumers have started to discover the magic of the non-alcoholic sparkling wine after years of growing demand for alcohol-free beer.

“There is a growing tendency of people buying one alcohol-free bottle with the regular sparkling wine. And the competition is on the rise too,” said Pavel Kučera from Euro Center Trade company dealing in wholesale of wines. Their alcohol-free sparkling wine of the German brand Carl Jung has been on offer for a number of years now. Kučera did not disclose the sales numbers but said the sales growth has reached dozens of percent this year.

Producers are competing

Jablonec producer Soare Sekt, controlled by the German Sektkellerei Schloss Wachenheim through the Polish Ambra, also introduced a non-alcoholic sparkling wine a year ago. The sales of their wine Light Live are growing this year. “We’ve sold some tens of thousands of bottles since the beginning of the year and the tendency is growing,” said Marek Málek, Soare Sekt spokesman.

Czech market sparkling wine leader, Bohemia Sekt from Henkell & Söhnlein group, launched its non-alcoholic sparkling wine in the first quarter of 2008 and, according to its sales manager Petr Černý, expects to sell some 100,000 bottles. “It is a brand new category. Consumers are often unaware of it. But the first reactions are very positive,” Černý said.

He said he thinks it is possible Bohemia Sekt will sell double the volume next year.

Bohemia Sekt tried to offer a non-alcoholic sparkling wine imported from Italy. Nobody wanted it. Long-term head of the company and the descendent of Moravian wine makers Josef Vozdecký admitted it was not the “right thing” back then. “It is the same with alcohol-free beer. The one that was available years ago cannot compare to the quality of the one available now,” Vozdecký.

Technology of the production of the non-alcoholic sparkling wine is quite difficult and expensive. One bottle costs approximately the same as the middle-class regular one. The production is traditional, made out of grapes through fermentation and only at the end the alcohol is removed.

None of the bigger producers makes non-alcoholic sparkling wine in the Czech Republic. Even Bohemia Sekt has its own non-alcoholic wine in their own bottles produced in Germany.

Sales up again

According to estimates, more than 15 million bottles of sparkling wine will be sold in the Czech Republic this year, some 400,000 more than last year. Bohemia Sekt alone will sell more than 12 million. Bohemia Sekt will sell some hundreds of thousands of bottles more than last year.

Bohemia Sekt mostly focuses on the domestic market but it announced its export record at the end of last week with one million bottles of sparkling wine and non-sparkling wine sold abroad. They export to 17 countries including African Ghana.

All producers talk about growing demand for predominantly the more expensive sparkling wines. Bohemia Sekt sells most of its Bohemia Sekt Demi Sec while the second largest producer Soare Sekt sells its most popular brand Rossijskoje Igristoje.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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