Jan 21: After a poor 2020 which saw a drop of 18% in Sales over 2019, Champagne has seen a reversal in its fortunes with an estimated growth of 32% over its 2020 sales, at 322 million bottles netting €5.5 billion compared to € 4 billion in 2020 when only 245 million bottles were sold, writes Subhash Arora who notes the cautious optimism suggested for 2022 by Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC)
Here is the famous quote attributed to Madam Lily Bollinger, head of the famous Bollinger Champagne House from 1941 to 1971:
"I drink champagne when I'm happy and when I'm sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone.
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am.
Otherwise, I never touch it unless I'm thirsty."
The quote was tested like never before during the last 2 years, thanks to the Covid Pandemic when the sales of Champagne plummeted by 18% in 2020 with sales of 245 million bottles (valued at €4 billion) but rebounded to an estimated 322 million bottles in 2021, up 32 percent from the previous year with sales of €6.2 billion, according to the preliminary estimates by Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC).
After touching a high of 339 million bottles sold in 2007 and crossing the sale of 300 million bottles every year from 2004 to 2018 (barring 293 million bottles sold in 2009-during global meltdown), the sales hit the nadir for the first time during this millennium in 2020; the sales were 297 million in 2019. Thus, the sales of champagne have crossed 300 million bottles every year this millennium, barring 2009, 2019 and 2020.
Also Read : Champagne Sale hits 20-year Low in 2020
The French domestic market achieved an increase of 25 % with 142 million bottles sold, a return to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Exports were a record 180 million bottles on buoyant demand from English-speaking countries like the US, the UK and Australia where a huge shortage was reported in the last 2 months of 2021. Restocking by restaurants accounted for part of the growth, but with many restaurants still suffering, more people have been drinking champagne at home, thus adding to the number.
The surge in demand caught some houses by surprise, with stocks temporarily running out reportedly for labels like Dom Perignon, Moet and Chandon and Ruinart. Champagne was already showing the biggest out-of-stock level among major grocery categories in French supermarkets in early November, according to retail data specialist Nielsen as reported by Reuters in November last year.
The bumper sales came as champagne vineyards were hit with severe spring frosts followed by summer rains last year, bringing disaster for the wine harvests across France in 2021. However, champagne producers store away millions of bottles in their caves (cellars) to be used in future production. A vast majority of champagne is designated as NV (Non-Vintage) where wine stored from previous years is allowed to be used in the blend in order to keep the taste and flavour as close to the stated philosophy of the House as possible.
‘This recovery is a welcome surprise for the people of Champagne after a troubled 2020, driven by the closure of bars and restaurants and the shortage of celebratory events across the world,’ said Maxime Toubart, president of the Syndicat Général des Vignerons and co-president of CIVC.
Uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic led the wine trade to reduce stocks in 2020. However, in 2021 they reversed that trend, with the acceleration in consumer demand since April. Problems linked to logistics and transport disruptions also factored into the 2021 figures.
Also Read : Feature: Champagne-The Tipping Point in Mumbai
Figures are not available for sales in India where Moet and Chandon is the top seller but does not release the sales figures. But it is an open secret that the sales have been miniscule and coming down, primarily because of Chandon, the Indian sparkling wine introduced by them in 2013. This has cut into their share as people happily drink it as champagne, even though it is illegal to refer to the moniker as such.
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