At least Christmas ‘happened’ this year as opposed to the disappointments of the previous year.
And it seems that everyone was in a mood to celebrate, albeit cautiously. If sales of Champagne are anything to go by, it appears the world was ready to crack open that extra bottle or two in the company of friends and family.
As reported in The Drinks Business recently, the total turnover for Champagne in 2021 was on course to reach a record high of over €5.5billion euros, which is 10 per cent higher than the previous pre-pandemic peak in 2019. The extraordinary figure in view of the continuing pandemic, results from a combination of quantity and quality. Jean-Marie Barillère, president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne, estimates that shipments of champagne in 2021 were around 320million bottles, while there has also been an aspect of ‘trading up’ with consumers treating themselves to the more expensive brands and cuvées.
During this exceptional resurgence of Champagne sales after the gloom of 2020, the varied champagne producers have fared differently in 2021. The great Champagne houses such as Veuve Clicquot, Pol Roger, Louis Roederer and others, were caught out by the rapid increase in demand. So much so that some brands or cuvées were in short supply or out of stock in some markets, caused principally by distribution issues, together with the lead time necessary in production. Many of the lesser-known brands, such as those sold in the supermarkets or discounters, have fared well and it was reported recently that Veuve Monsigny sold by Aldi was the second most popular Champagne after Moët et Chandon. Indeed, many of the Champagnes sold by the multiple retailers have sold well, resulting from a combination of keen pricing – many around the £14 per bottle mark – and good quality, underpinned by awards from the top wine competitions such as IWC and IWSC.
Other producers who have benefitted from the upsurge in demand and supply problems from the top houses, are the co-operatives, producing consistently good quality Champagne in the mid-price range. Champagne de Barfontarc, located in Baroville in the southern Aube region, has seen its sales go through the roof, creating its own stock problems from lack of materials, such as packaging, and unprecedented sales of the top expensive cuvées.
With the calmer post-festive period now upon us, producers will have the time to restock and take time to forward plan in light of the higher level of demand for Champagne across the board and across the world. Counter intuitively, the pandemic has been good for Champagne, proving above all that quality is one of the most enduring attributes of any product. Time to pop another cork, toast the new year and look forward to better things to come in terms of global health. In the words of Oscar Wilde: “Only the unimaginative can fail to find a reason for drinking Champagne.”