Aside from London’s role as a trendsetter for fine wine and Champagne consumption, it is clear the immediate opportunities for sales growth come from outside Europe.
So, while the UK and France suffered declines in 2012, the total shipments to countries outside the EU rose last year by 3.2% to almost 61m bottles, accounting for a record of nearly 20% of the global market.
“The further you are from France, the better the figures,” states Ghislain de Montgolfier, alluding to the positive impact of emerging and mineral rich economies on Champagne sales, particularly compared to a recessionary Europe.
Of those countries in growth, Le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC) notes that Japan and Australia in particular have enjoyed strong growth, as well as emerging Champagne markets China, Russia, Mexico and Nigeria.
“We see lots of potential in Africa – it could be the next Asia,” says Cattier’s commercial director Philippe Bienvenu.
Meanwhile, Deutz’s export director Philippe Rivet, among others, picks out the surge in sales in Brazil. Despite high taxes on imported wine of around 150%, Rivet says this market is being buoyed both by an economic boom, and an inherent culture of wine drinking and appreciation.
Chairman of Laurent-Perrier Michel Boulaire records, gratefully, the house’s sales growth outside Europe – part of a deliberate policy to develop new markets begun three years ago. He lists the BRICs and CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa) as successful, before picking out South Korea in particular. “It is booming,” he says, noting that Korean Airlines serves Laurent-Perrier’s iconic rosé.
For Pierre Aymeric Du Cray, GH Mumm and Perrier-Jouët global sales director, it is Australia that represents the Pernod-owned brands’ “greatest ever success story”. Du Cray believes Mumm could soon become Australia’s second biggest Champagne due to a boost since the brand replaced Moët as sponsor of the Melbourne Cup horse race – “the biggest Champagne and cultural event in Australia”, he says.
The US is also, for many, a great opportunity. Signs the country is recovering from the prolonged recession are fuelling hopes of future sales increases, prompting certain houses to invest in the market.
Last year, Deutz decoupled from parent company Roederer’s US distributor to appoint a series of regional distributors, and today, Rivet says “there are good signs from the US.”
Similarly, Groupe Thiénot is working to develop this market, having set up a subsidiary in the country in September with four full-time staff.
The group has also invested in Asia, with a new subsidiary called Thienot Asia-Pacific designed to build sales of Champagne – along with grands crus classés – in China. Although growth rates are rapid, China is still a small market for Champagne, with a fragmented and complex route to market, high taxation and a limited appreciation of white and sparkling wine.
Such drawbacks prompt Rivet to say, “I think Russia will develop faster than China.”
Nevertheless it should be stressed, as Du Cray comments, Champagne is not in a situation where, if France and Europe are going down, the rest of the world can compensate.
Indeed, as Du Cray’s colleague and managing director at Pernod Ricard, Michel Letter comments, “If France is down 1% you need Asia to be up 10% to compensate.”
Other Champagne trends reported by the drinks business include:
5. Perfect fruit
6. Fine wine following
7. Going green
8. Disgorgement debate
9. Reinstating rituals
10. Sweet surge