There is beginning to be a shortage of champagne. The alarms sound already, especially among distributors, sellers and even in the great French champagne houses, which hold two thirds of the market. There are several factors that feed this uneasiness, but the main one is the high demand for consumption of this wine throughout the planet, especially in the emerging countries of the nouveau riche Asia, willing to pay a higher price for this type of bubble.
The pandemic has contributed to the outbreak. On the one hand, when the health crisis appears in 2020, the drop in sales is notorious due to the closure of entertainment and restaurant venues around the world, to which the reduction by the Controlled denomination of originwhich since 1936 regulates a process of several centuries of tradition in an area of 34,168 hectares, with 16,176 viticulturists, 416 commercial, 3,727 small producers and 121 cooperatives, from the harvest yields of that year to 8,000 kilos per hectare, at this In addition, the 2021 wine was terrible due to the bad weather conditions during the vineyard cycle, so wine had to be released from the individual reserve to reach 10,000 kilos per hectare.
And in the midst of all this, remember Jordi Melendodirector of the Champagne Melendo Guide, the progressive flexibility of the restrictions due to Covid occurs, and with this first hint of freedom the celebrations begin. People wants bubbles and champagne sales begin to soar, with spectacular growth: the year closed with a record figure of 320 million bottles shipped, the highest volume in a decade –75 million more than in 2020–. “The increase in demand continues and commercial operators have rushed forward with their orders, which does not mean that the bottles have reached the end customer. It should also be noted that certain wines have low production and high demand, which is why it is sometimes difficult to access them,” says Melendo. In the first half of 2022, more than 130 million bottles, 13.8% more than in the same period of the previous year. Optimism is high because this year’s harvest is one of the best in recent times, and yields have risen to 12,000 kilos per hectare and up to 16,500 kilos for individual reserves, “which guarantees production for years to come”, adds this expert.
Spain is the ninth market in champagne consumption, when a few years ago it was the sixth: in 2021, 4,434,158 bottles were issued from Champagne (45.7% more in volume compared to 2020, and 57.2% in value compared to the previous year) . Ahead, the United States, with 34.1 million bottles, the United Kingdom, with 29.8 million, Japan, with 13.8 million, Germany, with 11.2, Belgium, with 10.3, Australia, with 9, 9, Italy, with 9.2, and Switzerland, with 6.1. “For example, Australia used to be a good customer and now it is a huge buyer of wines. In addition, to this is added that emerging markets, such as Asian countries, take advantage of this emergence, “he explains. Alvaro Morenoone of the members of a la vole, importer, seller and narrator of wines and small producer champagne since 2014. He is precisely these days filming a documentary about these small and unique winegrowers in the mountains of Reims. On the other end of the phone he explains his reflections and some fear, such as “there is not champagne for everyone”.
Moreno argues that “it is a wine associated with celebration, and people have discovered what fear is in the pandemic, and now they want to celebrate with bubbles. There is a huge demand all over the world.” He further states that they are having 200% growth, because “customers now also want to try unique things, different from those offered by the most commercial champagne houses. The growth of organic champagne is spectacular.”
To illustrate this, he tells the case of a young, unknown producer who begins to put his wine on the market in the Cote des Blancs, south of Epernay, and in less than six months has received a visit from 26 distributors of all the world. “When we talk about champagne, the vast majority is marketed by the big brands, with conventional treatments. They are the easiest to consume and most people like them”, adds Moreno. On the other hand, the biological ones, those from the plot, are more imperfect and are the ones that right now excite wine connoisseurs. “Our problem now is not to sell, but to buy, because the vineyard is limited.” He explains that Á la Volé sells 40,000 bottles a year: “I could sell twice as many, but I can’t buy it.”
The great temple of wines in Spain is in a similar situation, as is laviniawhich is also committed to small producers, “we defend and advise small houses that make their wines a true reflection of the terroir and do not speculate with their stocks, since they are available”, explains the director of Lavinia Spain, Juan Manuel Bellver. He is critical of the strategy followed by others. “There is a certain shortage of the big houses because in addition to the problems of reduced production, these big brands, following a commercial strategy, pay more attention to other emerging markets,” adds Bellver, who acknowledges that he is out of stock of some big champagnes, like some vintage Dom Pérignon or Crystal by Louis Roederer.
Precisely, this house has everything sold. “We are in a technical breakdown of stock. We have champagne, but we cannot create new clients, close deals or open new sales channels. We sell 150,000 bottles a year in Spain and it is impossible to increase production,” he explains. Jordi Monroigdirector of marketing for Leading Brands and brand director Louis Roderer, house that has a farm of 200 hectares from which about three million bottles come out that are distributed in more than 80 countries.
He attributes this entire phenomenon to the post-Covid euphoria, “which has triggered consumption around the world, but especially in Asia.” He also remembers that when the Spanish distributor took over the brand in 2009, they sold less than 30,000 bottles. “And now if we had 50% more of those 150,000 we would also sell them”.
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