Friday, November 15, 2013

The Status Quo of Champagne

Jean-Marie Barillère, Co-President, Comité Champagne
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

A few weeks ago in Chicago, just before the wonderful Champagne tasting hosted by the Comité Champagne (read my post here), I was a guest at a small lunch hosted by this group. The purpose of this lunch was to discuss current trends in Champagne; the featured speakers were Jean-Marie Barillère and Thibaut Le Mailloux of the Comité as well as Sam Heitner of the Champagne Bureau, USA.

The discussion went back and forth and the guests (primarily media) were allowed to ask questions and state their opinions; this was a nice change from the usual approach where one speaker talks and everyone listens. How nice to have a free flow of ideas!

Instead of writing a full recap of the discussion or an essay, I'll list a few facts:

Average annual consumption of Champagne:
In France: 3 bottles - In the US- less than one glass

40%-45% of Champagne sold in the US from October to December

Since 2008, there has been a slight decline in sales. This is due of course to the worldwide economic crisis. Sales were better in 2009 than in 2008.

Lately there has been a decline in sales in France and England, while sales have been steady in Italy. There has been a slight increase in Germany and Scandanavia, while the biggest increase over the past few years has been in Japan, especially with younger women (30s and younger).

The Comité is taking even stronger steps to protect the Champagne name, as they are still upset by inexpensive sparkling wines from California labeled as Champagne. 

There are 15,000 growers in the Champagne district, 4651 grower/producers, 143 cooperative producers and 349 houses. If you purchase more than 5% of your grapes, you are considered a house.

To show you how popular Champagne is, this product represents 30% of France's wine exports, yet Champagne makes up only 4% of the country's vineyards (and .4% of the world's vineyards). I'd say they're doing something right when it comes to marketing and selling Champagne, wouldn't you?