Three major grocers – Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose – have all slashed their champagne (and wine) prices with 25% reductions running for at least a week in the run-up to the Bank Holiday weekend. And at Tesco and Sainsbury’s the Continue reading “Discount madness hits the High Street with 25% off at three major grocers”
At the time of writing the lowest price for champagne in UK supermarkets continues to be at around the £10 a bottle level with ‘exclusive labels’ at Lidl, Aldi and ASDA to the fore. Sainsbury’s and Tesco tend to favour a six bottle discount of 25% running at the same time as other offers and the former grocer has started just such a deal today (16 August) while the latter is expected to follow suit in the run-up to the Bank Holiday weekend.
It’s no surprise to hear that the vast majority of champagne in the UK take home trade is sold at a discount. In the total champagne category in the year to date until mid-July, 60% of champagne sales by value were made on promotion. This is true even for the major international brands and the figures for the percentage each sells on and off promotion is quite revealing. Although it has the highest rrp of the six major brands listed here at around £40-£42 a bottle, a massive 67% of Bollinger’s sales in the first half of 2016 were made on promotion, compared with 64% of Taittinger’s, 58% of GH Mumm, 54% of Lanson’s, 48% of Moët’s and 34% of Veuve Clicquot’s.
If we look at the average selling price for each brand over that same period Veuve Clicquot, not Bollinger, tops the chart with the highest at £32.70 while Bollinger stands at £32.41. The average selling price for Moët is £28.46, that for Lanson is £22.61 and GH Mumm is at £22.19.
While this is going on each brand is facing the need to raise its prices, just to keep margins at the same level, because of the effective devaluation of sterling against the Euro since Brexit. The UK agents are hoping that something will happen soon on the financial markets to change all this before they commit to raising their prices, but they can’t put the decision off for long and a rise of as much as 10% could be looming.
Will this make the supermarkets in the UK change strategy and call an end to £10 champagne or discounting major brands to around £20 a bottle? Only time will tell, but current deals suggest not before the autumn at least. Currently Moët is at £20.25 in Sainsbury’s (with the six bottle discount), GH Mumm is priced at £20 in Morrisons and £22 in ASDA, while Lanson is at £22 in Tesco and may come down further soon. This looks a good time to stock up your cellar, although we suspect the grocers haven’t tired of slashing fizz prices yet.
The yield for the 2016 harvest, currently expected to begin around mid-September, has been set at 9,700 kilos per hectare with a further 1,100kgs/ha to be taken from the reserve at the start of February next year. This level of yield will potentially produce around 283m bottles with a further 32m bottles coming from the reserve next February, if appropriate, making a total production of 315m bottles. This compares with worldwide champagne shipments of 312.5m in 2015 and the news that the MAT total for shipments in the 12 months to the end of June 2016 were up just over 2%.
However, after a very difficult growing season in Champagne so far this year with frosts, disease and uneven flowering all reducing the actual potential yield from the 2016 harvest, it seems likely that in parts of champagne, particularly the southernmost Côte des Bar region, yields won’t even reach the 9,700kg/ha level. The Comité Champagne itself estimates that 14% of the total vineyard was destroyed by frost, rain and hail in the spring.
While they expect to be slightly over the 9,700kg/ha level in their own vineyards, Alice Paillard (Champagne Bruno Paillard) said last month (July) that many producers were not expecting to reach that level and some may be significantly below. Yves Couvreur, président des vignerons indépendants, also thinks [many] growers will struggle to reach this threshold [9,700kgs] even with the individual reserve, according to the l’Union newspaper.
However, as producers are allowed to make up any such shortfall from their reserves, and, prior to the 2015 harvest reserves stood at 8,700kgs/ha on average across the appellation, this won’t have a negative effect on the volume of champagne that could be made from the 2016 harvest.
Before last month’s historic tasting of old vintages of Bollinger dating back to 1830, the year after the house was founded, on our tour of the cellars we saw the restoration work the winemaking team does by hand, using ancient methods.
In this short video we can hear Bollinger assistant winemaker Denis Bunner describing how the winemaking team, working in the cellars, are restoring Jeroboams of Bollinger ‘RD’ 2000. Disgorging the wines by hand (à la volée), tasting them all and then topping them up, before giving them their final cork, all of which is done by hand, using traditional skills.
Who buys champagne at the ‘full’ price in a UK supermarket? If a supermarket lists something you want, you just need to wait until they slash the price before making your purchase. And if it is one of the big brands, you won’t have to wait for long. As the retail war between grocers continues apace, the only issue is trying to assess what’s a ‘good discount’ for any given brand. Each week there’s usually something with a least a £10 reduction, see the Latest Champagne Offers page.
But will it last? The recent problems with the 2016 harvest, already hit by severe frost earlier in the year, and more recently from several weeks of Continue reading “Will discounting slow, given likely small harvest in 2016?”
Sainsbury’s has again introduced its favoured ‘25% off six bottles’ mechanic so that its customers will have some great deals on champagne over the long Bank Holiday weekend. You can now buy GH Mumm and Taittinger brut styles at just £18.75 a bottle, while Moët is at £20.25. Better still Lanson Gold Label Vintage 2004, already on offer at £33, can now be purchased for £24.75 (if you buy at least six bottles of wine).
And Tesco has hit back with Andre Carpentier sold at the equivalent six bottle price of only £7.46 a bottle, under its ‘copycat’ 25% off deal. Tesco has both Heidsieck Monopole and Nicolas Feuillatte at £12.75 under the same deal, while Lanson Black Label drops to £16.50 and Lanson pink to £20.25. The Moët deals previously planned have been dropped. See Latest Champagne offers for the details.
Historically Champagne has not been seen as a wine appropriate for investment purposes, certainly not in the same way as say red Bordeaux. The three most commonly traded prestige cuvées have in the past been Dom Pérignon, Krug and Louis Roederer’s Cristal. Vintage Krug and Cristal, both produced in far smaller volumes than Dom Pérignon, tend to have the higher values, though which comes out on top depends on the particular vintage, it seems. Cristal is ahead in 1990 (by some way), 1995 and 1996, but behind Krug in 1985 and in the recent much vaunted 2002 release. Some would put Salon in the same category, and the price of the last but one Salon release, the 2002 vintage, was even higher than Krug’s 2002.
But in recent years other luxury cuvées have joined the party and in the Liv-ex index of the best performing prestige cuvées from the 2002 vintage (the most significant release in the past decade, though it might be challenged by 2008 in time), Bollinger Grande Année, Taittinger Comte de Champagne, Dom Ruinart, Philipponnat Clos des Goisses and Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Cuvée all feature. These five champagnes are listed here in ascending order of release price, but in terms of accruing value, one which has increased by 59% stands out and that is the Taittinger.
You might think this suggests that Comtes is severely undervalued, not something you can accuse Salon of on release (in over two years since it was first released the value of 2002 Salon has only risen 1% from £2,650 to £2,680 a case, according to Liv-ex Index, February 2016), the next best performer is Dom Pérignon 2002 up 34% since its launch. But whatever the reason, the chance to taste six of the past eight releases of Comte de Champagne a couple of weeks ago — 2000 & 2005 were the missing years — was not to be sniffed at.
Interestingly The Finest Bubble (www.thefinestbubble.com ) who put on this tasting, showed the wines blind, partly to try to keep pre-conceptions Continue reading “Comte de Champagne vertical tasting 2006-1996”