Champagne shipments rise fractionally only

Champagne shipments has risen very slightly compared to the 306.096 bottles reached in 2016, rising by 0.52% or around 1.6m bottles to 307.7m bottles in 2017. At the end of November 2017 shipments were in line to rise to around 311m bottles and even the Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC) was predicting 310m bottles. But sales in December, usually the busiest month in the year, fell back generally by around 10%, on the same month in 2016.

The news follows a difficult harvest in 2017, when the general quality, particularly of the black grapes Pinot Noir and Meunier, was adversely affected by the warm, wet weather in August, immediately prior to picking, causing widespread problems with rot. While Chardonnay in general and Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bars, were the two success stories of the harvest, producing good quality fruit, Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims was more variable especially around villages like Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ hit by frost in April and then rot at harvest time. Meunier was worse effected by the rot issues, with the problem tending to be worse the further west in the Marne Valley towards Paris you go.

Given the spring frosts in mid-April reduced the harvest potential by around 20-25% on average and the need for rigorous sorting at the harvest cut the yield further, it quite a surprise to discover the Champagne Comité estimates average yields across the whole appellation at 10,057 kg/ha which is just above the maximum limit they set on 21 July at 9,300kgs/ha.

Despite this, driven by the ambition of the leading player and largest purchaser of grapes to increase its market share, grape prices and prices of vins clairs have risen by about 5%, which will put increasing pressure on some producers that don’t have the strongest brands and have to buy in the majority of the grapes they need to make their wines. While the Comite reports grape rpces on average in the region of €6 – €6.10 per kilo, for grand cru fruit considerably more is being paid. It looks like being a tricky year for some large and medium sized players, balancing paying significantly more for their raw material while under pressure not to increase prices for consumers.

This will no doubt cheer Giles Coren whose column in The Times this weekend was entitled: “Champagne is only good for cleaning drains”. In this piece he says things like: “champagne is nasty, acrid and belch-making. It gives you a headache almost immediately and a desperate hangover later”. Reporting that prosecco sales outstripped champagne by ten to one in the UK this Christmas, he says this is not just because “prosecco is cheaper and nicer. Sales have slumped because champagne is overpriced and rank and the people have finally realised.”

This may of course all be a tongue in cheek way of trying to restock his own cellar, with the champagne indignant producers PRs, send him in an effort to get him to change his view. But The Times wine correspondent Jane MacQuitty has also been critical of the Champenois, or at least two of the three largest brands worldwide, in her New Year’s Eve column, where she attacked the quality of Veuve Clicquot and Nicolas Feuillatte’s champagne. So perhaps, given the paper’s pro-Brexit stance, this is just a Murdoch inspired attempt to discredit the French.

UK champagne shipments fall 14% in value in 2016

Champagne shipments to the UK in 2016 were down 8.68% in volume, falling from 34.2m to 31.2m bottles and 14.03% in value, dropping from €512.2m to €440.4m, the detailed figures just released by the Comité Champagne reveal. This was the largest percentage drop in value among all the top ten export markets, only five of which showed any volume growth in 2016, with shipments to the USA rising the most, up 6.33%, although the value of the 21.8m bottles shipped to the USA only rose by 4.9%.

The fairly dramatic fall in the value of UK shipments, Continue reading “UK champagne shipments fall 14% in value in 2016”

Champagne market slows in 2016

Champagne shipments in 2016 were down 2.1% at 306,036,369 bottles, a little over 6.5m bottles below the level reached in 2015, according to the statistics released by the CIVC. This is just above the 304,994,000 bottles shipped in 2013, the poorest recent year, although immediately after the financial market meltdown only 293,331,000 bottles were shipped in 2009.

The French market declined further, Continue reading “Champagne market slows in 2016”

2016 Champagne harvest yield set to produce around 315m bottles

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%.

The harvest is expected to start in mid-September
The harvest is expected to start in mid-September

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 Continue reading “2016 Champagne harvest yield set to produce around 315m bottles”

Champenois set yield for 2015 harvest

With the 2015 harvest in Champagne expected to start generally around 10 September, the CIVC (Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne) set the maximum allowed yield at 10,500 kilos per hectare at its meeting in mid-July, with a further 500kgs/ha to be released from the ‘reserve’. This is the same level of yield as was set for the 2014 harvest and is in line with expectations that champagne shipments worldwide will be around 307m bottles in 2015, close to the level reached in 2014 when 307.12m bottles were shipped.

With the current level of vineyard in active production of just under 33,700 hectares a yield of 10,500kgs/ha would produce about 306.5m bottles and the additional 500kgs/ha could potentially add just under 15m further bottles.

UK champagne shipments up by 6.1% in 2014

Britain continues to lead the way in champagne consumption with imports rising by 6.1% to 32,675,232 bottles in 2014, that’s more the next two markets, the USA and Germany, can muster together. Value was up slightly more by 6.7% to just over 477m€ giving an average price per bottle of 14.6€. The British consume more than seven times the combined volume of champagne imported by the much vaunted BRIC countries with consumption flat in China and Russia, up 10.2% in Brazil and down 16.2% in India. Britain takes 22.4% of all champagne exports.

The five leading export brands account for 38.45% of the market in Britain or 12,562,721 bottles. Compare that with the USA where the top five brands between them take a massive 70.25% of the whole market. Some 31,470, 047 bottles or 96.3% are non-vintage styles, with only 1,205,185 bottles of vintage champagne imported into Britain in 2014.

Champagne sets 2014 yield to meet predicted demand

The basic yield in for the 2014 harvest was set at 10,500kilos per hectare by Champagne’s governing body the Comité interprofessionel du vin de Champagne (CIVC) which regulates champagne production at its meeting just before the August holiday break. This level of yield will to produce around 305.7m bottles of champagne. This is the volume of champagne the CIVC committee charged with analysing the market believes will be needed given the relatively high levels of stocks held by producers that amounts to nearly four years supply.

It is not a particularly optimistic assessment of the current situation which is partly based on the shipment figures for the first half of 2014 that show a very slight rise of 1.4% on the first half of 2013 to 110m bottles. But of course the majority of champagne sales are made in the second half of the year — particularly the last quarter — and predicting the level of demand in the run-up to the year end is always problematic. The MAT figure for the 12 months to the end of June 2014 helps a little, that is up 0.3% to 306.5m bottles on the same 12 months to the end of June 2013. But it is a still a difficult market to read.

The calculation about what a certain yield will produce is easy enough, you just need to know the current area of productive vineyard and that is 33,600 hectares. Because predicting consumption accurately is so difficult, the Champenois have devised a system by which they can make later adjustments to allow for fluctuations in demand by releasing more of the wine held in the Réserve to boost production.

This is quite a complicated system to explain. For 2014, in fact 400kgs/ha of the 10,500kgs/ha allowed will come out of the current reserves held and not the 2014 harvest. And if shipments look like rising above 307m bottles, the CIVC will raise this to 500kgs/ha. In addition vineyard owners can also put up to 3,100 kg/ha into their own reserve stocks, providing that reserve does not exceed the limit prescribed by regulations.