Prestige cuvées bonanza push vintage Champagne sales up 60% at Berry Bros

Sales of vintage Champagne rose nearly 60% at Berry Bros & Rudd last year on the back of a “fantastic year” for prestige cuvées, BBRS’s wine buyer told the drinks business.

Speaking to the drinks business for the sparkling wine feature that appears in the April issue, BBR’s Champagne and sparkling wine buyer Davy Zyw told db that overall Champagne sales rose 42% at the UK’s oldest wine merchant but that vintage Champagne’s had seen “astronomical growth” of 60% largely due to the anticipation around special release prestige cuvées.

“2019 was a very important year in terms of Grandes  Marques prestige cuvee releases – we had Champagne Bollinger, La Grande Année 2008, which sold out in record time, and the Dom Pérignon 2008,” he told db.

“There was a lot of hype around these wines – particularly the Dom Pérignon – and although the 2008 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut Millesime was released the year before, there were a few more sales flowing into that last year, and of course the Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2008. There was a lot of anticipation and built up thirst on the 2008, so all our fine wine campaigns regarding these prestige cuvées did particularly well,” he explained.

He pointed out that a number of prestige cuvees are set to be released in 2020, including the Champagne Bollinger, La Grande Année 2012 Brut and Rosé, as well as a further release of the 2008 Dom Pérignon.

“The next will be released in the summer, so we’re expecting another healthy year looking forward,” he said*. “The Champagne market is doing well and some of the more historic fine wine customers are keeping an open mind and looking where some of their spend can go, outside the traditional Bordeaux and Burgundy. We’ve got fantastic range of prestige champagnes at every price point, but, especially at the higher end, and were doing well at these.”

Zyw’s comments echoed the sentiments of the UK Champagne Agents Association chairman Andrew Hawes of Mentzendorf, who told the drinks business in February that the demand for high value branded Champagne was not being recorded by analysts such as Nielsen.  

“We’re up 42% from 2019 to 2018 across total Champagne, which is quite a different picture to Nielson or the till receipts and data collectors are saying,” Zyw agreed, pointing out that BBR operates in a different part of the market, generally selling wines at a higher price point.

Meanwhile non-vintage sales were up 14% year-on-year which Zwy said was still “a reason to celebrate” even if it was not the “astronomical growth” of that seen by vintage expressions.

Drilling into that figure Zyw said the growth was coming from its own range Champagnes, including its Grand Cru of Mailly, and Blanc de Blanc made by Le Mesnil.

“Although we know champagne is growing for us as a category – it’s a focus category for us – sales were up 26% on a rise on 2017, so we’re growing in line, but last year’s sales really did over index on even healthy double-digit growth previously,” he said.

Premium curve

Champagne was likely to only become more premium, Zwy argued.

“Looking at the RRP of Laurent Perrier, Bollinger and other Grande Marques which might have been on shelf for £35, now they are all at £45 and up, and with Champagne becoming more and more premium, within that £25-35 bracket is where I can see English sparkling really come into its own at £35.”

“I imagine Grandes Marques and more mass market Champagnes will remain a very important category, but prices will move up and prestige will only move up at the same time,” he added.

Overall sparkling sales at the fine wine merchant had increased by over 43% year-on-year overall, Zwy said, with  much of the volume sales to the retailer’s own label Cremant de Limoux, which is made in by with long-standing partner Antech and offers “terrific value” at £13.95 (Check).”

“It’s a bridging style, between some of the finer Crémants and Champagnes and what the UK customer loves.”

 

 (*Zyw was speaking to the drinks business in the week before the UK government announced the nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of Covid-19)

 

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