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10 unlikely Champagne growth markets

All sorts of markets are appearing today that, 20 years ago or less, were barely given a second thought.

Is North Korea a leading Champagne market of the future?

China, Brazil and Russia take most of the sexy headlines when it comes to growth at the moment.

Some are less well known but equally important, Belgium, Germany, Australia, Nigeria and Mexico for example.

They are strong, up and coming markets showing stable, if sometimes rapid, growth.

Figures from the CIVC for 2011 show that over the course of last year, China grew by 19% to over 1.3 million bottles, Australia by 31% to 4.8m bottles and Singapore by 20% to 1.4m bottles.

However, from small bases some truly fantastic figures can be achieved as the sudden influx of even 100 bottles boosts a country’s figures dramatically.

Just for fun the drinks business has compiled these high flyers from the latest statistics and while some of them really are quite unlikely to set the Champagne market on fire in the near future, there may be more to some of them than meets the eye when the rise of their regional neighbours is taken into account.

A more sensible and in-depth look at the top markets to watch for Champagne will appear in this year’s Trends Report.

10.  Burma

Rise over 2011: 300%

Champagne imports: 2,844 bottles

A country gradually divesting itself of decades of rule by a military junta but still secretive.

Democracy is more tangible and the darling of the west Aung San Suu Kyi may be free from house arrest, but oppression and corruption is far from over.

With other Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, Singapore and Hong Kong providing more stable and profitable, it is unlikely Burma will be receiving any special attention anytime soon.

9. Kirghizstan

Rise over 2011: 400%

Champagne imports: 400 bottles

Landlocked, mountainous, Kirghizstan is a nation better known for its hardy, nomadic inhabitants living in auls and drinking mare’s milk than pleasure for living aesthetes quaffing Champagne in glitzy casinos.

However, the legacy of Russian domination from the 1870s, first under the Tsars and latterly under the Communists must have left traces of bureaucratic decadence which only fizz can satisfy.

Still, for now it’s doubtful the Champenois are overly excited about the current Champagne “boom” out on the steppes of Central Asia.




8. Nicaragua

Granada, Nicaragua

Rise over 2011: 507%

Champagne imports: 1,530 bottles

A beautiful country on the Central American isthmus and one that is now enjoying some relative stability.

Back in the 1970s and 80s, Nicaragua, like many of its neighbours, was riven with conflict and something of a pawn in the US’s fight against dictators that didn’t fit into its world view.

This was particularly manifest in the Reagan administration’s clandestine support for the “Contras”, nominally right wing guerillas fighting the left wing regime of Daniel Ortega.

Agriculture is the basis of the Nicaraguan economy and it is the poorest country in the region with the United Nations estimating that some 48% of the population living below the poverty.

Nicaragua has more important things to worry about than growing its Champagne market.



7. Cape Verde

Rise over 2011: 611%

Champagne imports: 1,580 bottles

A tiny collection of islands (just off the coast of West Africa near Guinea-Bissau if geography isn’t your forte) and with a population of little over 560,000, the Cape Verde islands is another unlikely boom market.

Any additional Champagne consumption here is likely to be down to the influx of tourists, honeymooning couples and the like, clinking glasses at having found a tropical paradise with pristine beaches and clear blue waters.

Last year the number of tourists visiting the islands (457,000) was almost equal to that of the island’s population itself.

Then again, from small beginnings etc.


6. Iraq

The popular image

Rise over 2011: 840%

Champagne imports: 5,644 bottles

Think of Iraq and the most recent memories will be of a questionable invasion, bloody occupation and the failure to provide any evidence in the form of chemical weapons as to why we should have been there in the first place.

Think back further and the images are of Saddam Hussein, the first Gulf War and gassed Kurdish families in Halabja.

Oil and blood. That is Iraq in popular memory, throw in the fact that it is a muslim country and scepticism over its future as a fine wine market is assured.

Nonetheless, Iraq had quite a flourishing beer industry under Saddam and good quality drinks are, usually discreetly, enjoyed by members of the Arab elites (in the same way that the UAE is the 17th biggest market in the world importing over 1.3m bottles and Qatar imports some 122,607 bottles).

Perhaps the Iraqis availed themselves of a little fizz when the last US troops rolled out last year?

5. Eritrea

Rise over 2011: 951%

Champagne imports: 389 bottles

An even better claimant for an improbable market. Eritrea has been locked in a bloody war with its larger neighbour Ethiopia over the last 30 years or so since the country claimed independence. Another conflict could flare up along the border at any moment.

To this day human rights abuses and muzzling of the press are serious problems with the Press Freedom Index ranked Eritrea as 178 out of 178, the lowest possible rating and below that of totalitarian North Korea.

However, with some other African countries showing greater economic leaps forward, don’t expect Eritrea to feature in too many reports in the future.

Just to give you an interesting parting fact however, Eritrea was renowned among the ancients for its elephants and the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt used the country as the source of its prize war elephants in the third century BC.

4. North Korea

Beloved Leader, does he have a taste for Champagne though?

Rise over 2011: 958%

Champagne imports: 1,080 bottles

Boasting a percentage increase that Beloved Leader himself would be proud of is North Korea – or, to give it it’s official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It’s hard not to look on North Korea without a mixture of amusement and slightly baffled head scratching, which sadly distracts from the state’s appalling treatment of its citizens, dangerous belligerence towards its neighbours and the insidious, Orwellian nightmare/paradise it really is.

Normally dubbed “the most secretive state on Earth” or the “hermit kingdom”, it is not even known how old current president, Kim Jong-un, is, perhaps 28 or 29 making him the world’s youngest head of state.

A totalitarian, Stalinist dictatorship with an extreme cult of personality surrounding the three generations that have ruled the country since 1945 that borders on deification, North Korea is not the most promising of growth markets.

Nevertheless, “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il had a love of Cognac, perhaps his son has one for Champagne?

Is it too much to speculate that the “outstanding leader of the party, army and people” gave a much needed boost to the country’s Champagne import stats when he assumed power on 17 December last year?

3. Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown

Rise over 2011: 1,158%

Champagne imports: 6,794 bottles

War-torn, poverty stricken, child soldiers, blood diamonds, at one time no well-worn African cliché seemed quite enough for Sierra Leone.

At the height of the civil war that lasted between 1991 and 2002, the notorious “West Side Boys” (actually West Side “Niggaz” because of their love of gangsta rap though this was bowdlerised for delicate western ears) must have made a particularly ghoulish sight as they strutted into battle, drunk and stoned, dressed in women’s dresses and wigs, which they believed would ward off bullets.

Suffice to say they didn’t, as the Boys discovered in 2001 when the SAS and Paras destroyed them in a dawn raid to free some fellow British soldiers who’d been kidnapped while involved in peace keeping operations in the country.

Since the end of the civil war though there have been encouraging signs that foreign investment in mining is having a positive effect on the economy.

In time Sierra Leone may become increasingly important in West Africa as it is rich in diamonds and rutile, a titanium ore used in paint pigment and welding rod coatings.

Unemployment and grinding poverty are still the day-to-day reality for most people in Sierra Leone but perhaps one day it will emerge and develop into a flourishing market like the regional powerhouse, Nigeria.

2. Mozambique

Rise over 2011: 1,467%

Champagne imports: 7,711 bottles

Mozambique was at one time, like Sierra Leone, an “archetypal” African country.

Colonised by Portugal, it took a communist insurgency that lasted from 1961 – 1974 to throw the colonialists out, whereupon Mozambique descended into civil war and anarchy as the former freedom fighters turned on each other in a bid to win more power for themselves.

But, the civil war ended in 1992 and by 1993 some 1.3 million refugees who had fled to neighbouring countries returned – the largest repatriation ever seen in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since then the country’s economy has rebounded strongly with an average annual growth rate between 1996 and 2006 of 8% and if more foreign investment can be encouraged then this may continue.

Corruption is still a major issue but huge natural gas reserves were discovered earlier this year which may, if properly handled, be of huge benefit to the country and its people.

And with tropical waters like those in the picture above to attract the tourists, perhaps it is unwise to write Mozambique off completely as Africa continues to emerge with stronger economies taking root across the continent.

1. Puerto Rico

Rise over 2011: 13,358%

Champagne imports: 136,334 bottles

Clearly, a growth rate of over 13,000% is not sustainable year-on-year, if it is then Puerto Rico is well on course to be a multi-million bottle market in a very short space of time.

Puerto Rico enjoys a strange, symbiotic, relationship with the US, which can be traced back to the US-Spanish War of 1898 when the island became little more than a colony of the Americans rather than the Spanish.

This status quo changed in 1947 when Puerto Ricans were allowed to elect their own governor. Nonetheless, it is still subject to US jurisdiction and the president is the head of state.

Economically Puerto Rico is in trouble at the moment, something that may be due in part to its odd status.

However, the island’s GDP is one of the highest in the Caribbean and tourism is a growing market, one that accounted for 7% of the gross national product in 2009.

Perhaps once the economy has stabilised and the question of sovereignty is properly tackled, Puerto Rico could become the leading Caribbean market?


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