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March 14, 2012

Champagne Sales Less Bubbly in UK in 2011

By Spear's

Although we bring you figures today that champagne exports were fizzing in 2011, and indeed that Britain remained the top importer, the British figure was actually down. So what does this mean?

Although we bring you figures today that champagne exports were fizzing in 2011 (up 5 per cent to 141 million bottles), and indeed that Britain remained the top importer (34.5 million bottles), the British figure was actually down 3 per cent on 2010. So what does this mean?

Even though we are no longer technically in a recession – god knows that could change any moment – we have little to celebrate. It’s hard to imagine anyone cracking open a bottle during the urban riots of last summer. One might have expected the Royal Wedding to set corks popping in some quarters, but even if it did, it means the rest of the year was all the worse.

It would be interesting to know what the breakdown of private and corporate champagne sales was. From all the corporate events I attend, it’s clear that champagne is being abandoned in favour of wine (not even prosecco) as businesses adopt and demonstrate their austerity.

David Hesketh, MD of Laurent-Perrier, told Spear’s at the Annual Chamagne Tasting at the Banqueting House, where two hundred bottles from over sixty champagne houses were available for sample, that he was expecting little growth in UK imports in 2012:

‘I’m forecasting a flat year next year, very small growth, because it’s going to be a year of consolidation. Once we’ve had the Jubilee and the Olympics, I’m not so sure they’re going to be a great stimulus to the champagne market.’

Andrew Hawes, MD of Bollinger, was similarly bearish, saying he expected a recovery from 2014 after a correction.

Anne McElvoy wrote in Spear’s in December 2010 that there was hope champagne times would be back:

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“After Rupert Murdoch gave his Thatcher lecture at Lancaster House and invited the guests to champagne, the FTSE 100 woman behind me whispered: ‘Thank God for that — I’m so bored with Prosecco.’”

But 2011 was hardly a vintage year for Rupe, so it’s unlikely he’ll be offering anyone champagne. I guess we’ll just have to hope the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee send us down to our cellars in search of those thick green bottles.

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