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On-trade switching attention to growers

The on-trade is increasingly looking for grower Champagnes to top wine lists as big name brands continue to be discounted.

Speaking to the drinks business, Tony Stones, founder of Champagne Warehouse, said he was seeing more interest from hotels and restaurants looking for something different to offer in place of more famous names.

He said: “The on-trade is asking for grower Champagnes. With the likes of Morrisons always discounting brands like Veuve Clicquot, the on-trade is finding they can’t sell these Champagnes for as much anymore.”

As for what the on-trade is looking for, Stones said it was usually grands and premier crus and also vintage.

He added that it was particularly attractive for sommeliers and hoteliers when they realised “they can list a grand cru from a grower for the price of a big brand”.

The on-trade’s attention on the region’s smaller producers was pointed out by the drinks business in the Trends Report 2011, as were Stones’ views on rosé.

He said that while the market for rosé had not collapsed it had “flattened out”.

“It’s not decreasing,” he said, “it’s maintaining its popularity and actually across the sparkling wine board it’s very fashionable still.

“I think it’s broadening out as a category and certainly some of the rosé Champagnes we have that are more serious ‘wines’ – from grands and premier crus – people are ordering them throughout the year.”

He continued by saying that more clients were exploring vintage Champagne too but added he wasn’t entirely sure why, perhaps due to price or increased press attention after vintages such as 2002.

But he spoke positively of the 2006 vintage which some of his growers have started to release and expected a flurry of orders “before it gets too expensive”.

Finally, he said that while prices had remained flat into the new year he was expecting a price hike at some point.

Grape prices are increasing and he reported a rumour that some of the bigger names such as Moët & Chandon were seeking to buy more grapes from their providers.

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