Champagne report 2014: Seizing the initiative

Price of success

champagne counter offensive ww1Nevertheless, change is already occurring to reduce the supply of cheap, generic Champagne, and this is due to market forces. With the price of grapes at its highest level ever (see box, right), it is now extremely compelling for growers to sell their raw material to the houses, and earn a guaranteed (and good) yearly income, rather than making wine and bottling Champagnes themselves, particularly if they don’t have a confirmed buyer for their produce.

“Growers have never sold such a high proportion of grapes to the negociants, and at such a high price,” records Phillipponnat, noting that in 1990, 41% of growers’ grapes were sold to the houses, and in 2012 it was 58%, up from 55% the year before. “This move is extremely positive: the growers are getting more money and the negoces are getting more grapes,” he adds. Indeed, it’s a situation that prompts Barillère to comment, “Today more than ever before the relationship between the growers and the houses is very professional, and it has to be as tight as possible with a clear objective: the sharing of the value between the growers and the negoces.” For this of course, the houses must continue to increase the shelf prices of Champagne in order to pay for the increasingly costly grapes.

However, there are still people in the region who are supplying low-priced Champagne to the market, evident in the very cheap labels seen in UK and French supermarkets in the run up to Christmas. Much of such stock is sourced sur latte, disgorged, labelled and then immediately sold on in large quantities at low margins to major retailers. Rosset reports that the Champagne could be consumed just 10 days after disgorgement, in some cases.

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