Reports of Champagne's demise greatly exaggerated

Reports suggest that Champagne has had a harrowing year. But, says James Lawrence, there are bright spots in some markets.

Photo by Tristan Gassert on Unsplash
Photo by Tristan Gassert on Unsplash

It appears that tales of Champagne’s demise have been exaggerated; despite the CIVC’s pessimistic forecasts, consumer demand for Champagne rose significantly in several European markets during the summer season. 

That’s according to leading brands and importers, who claim that the months of July and August saw Champagne sales rocket, outperforming targets achieved in 2019.

“Our Champagne sales in July and August were 116% higher than the same period last year,” said Chiara Stroband, commercial director for a Norwegian import company, Palmer Group.

“This can partially be attributed to the government’s advice not to travel abroad in the summer; Norwegians decided to holiday at home and subsequently spent more on luxuries. We sold 20 Jeroboams and five Methuselah bottles of Champagne to one of our best customers in the summer,” Stroband added.

However, the phenomenon of consumers seeking comfort in luxury sparkling wine is not restricted to Scandinavia. Members of the London wine trade reported a similar uplift.

“July was a particularly good month: sales were 40% up on last year,” said Jeroboam’s wine director Peter Mitchell MW. “Overall, in the last five months our Champagne sales to retail and private clients are 7.4% up on the same period last year.”

Yet the news from Champagne’s regulatory body, the CIVC, has been sombre: they advised that both growers and Grandes Marques should brace themselves for a very difficult commercial year. 

In a recent communication sent to global press, the CIVC noted that “Champagne has been hit hard by the world economic crisis linked to Covid-19 and suffered a historic drop in shipments.”
According to the CIVC’s own data, global shipments fell dramatically between March and May. This is attributed to the global shutdown in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and a resulting lack of “celebratory mood.”

CIVC president Jean-Marie Barillère said that he believed the loss in global sales in 2020 could reach, “100 million bottles, in the event of a possible rebound of the pandemic after the summer.”

Nevertheless, a number of smaller producers feel that this assessment is overly pessimistic.

“We actually sold more bottles in France in July 2020 than in July 2019,” explained Christian Holthausen, A.R Lenoble’s communication’s manager. “Sales of A.R Lenoble in Italy are up 58% and our sales in Sweden are up 44%. I expect this trend to continue.”

However, he added that the US market was proving more difficult. 

“The first eight months in the United States were flat versus last year,” said Holthausen.

James Lawrence


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