3rd June, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt
Helped by the advent of critically acclaimed vintages, in particular the 2002 release, one new phenomenon in the market for Champagne is the promotion of top-end cuvées by fine wine merchants – and their enthusiastic uptake by collectors.
The release of the 2002 vintage in Champagne kick-started an interest in cellaring top-end fizz among fine wine collectors
Fuelling such a trend is the fortuitous combination of first-rate vintage releases, from 2000, 2002 and 2004, with merchants’ attempts to diversify their offerings beyond just grands crus classés. “Pre-release, semi-en primeur campaigns are a new part of the Champagne market,” records Andrew Hawes.
As a result, he says certain Champagne brands have established themselves as fine wines – and are being bought on release and then cellared – while a few are becoming investment wines as well. Looking back to the start of this development, Hawes cites the 2002 vintage as the catalyst for the sales phenomenon, and, as he stresses, the surge in demand for 2002 releases “happened at the lowest point in the non-vintage market”.
As for the most sought-after labels, best sellers for a fine wine merchant such as Bordeaux Index include Cristal 2004 and Dom Pérignon 2002, as well as Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2002 and Philipponnat’s Clos des Goisses from the same vintage. “While the overall market for Champagne may have struggled, we have not seen a flight away from it – in fact quite the opposite,” says Gary Boom, co-founder and managing director of Bordeaux Index.
“The last rounds of existing vintages, such as Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000, Cristal 2004 and Dom Pérignon 2002, in addition to the release of new vintages such as Comtes 2002 and Dom Pérignon 2003, have meant customers have consistently had reasons to buy,” he adds.
Further proof of this development comes from fine wine exchange Liv-ex. With Champagne viewed by collectors as a safe investment and relatively affordable, the sparkling product’s share of trade has doubled in 2012 compared to the previous year. And leading brands such as those mentioned above have enjoyed price rises on the secondary market over the last three years – offering less volatile returns than the Bordeaux firsts.
Hence, prestige cuvée vintage Champagne is now seen as both an indulgent and wise addition to any cellar.
Other Champagne trends reported by the drinks business include:
7. Going green
8. Disgorgement debate
9. Reinstating rituals
10. Sweet surge