Champagne not yet in the clear

Champagne not yet in the clear

The sound of popping Champagne corks has returned in some key export markets, but the recovery remains delicate.

Champagne sales in the US doubled in February this year compared with the same month of 2009, according to the Champagne Bureau, offering further hope to the sector.

Yet, caution must remain the order of the day. This time last year, Champagne producers were falling over themselves to point out that, yes, early sales in 2009 had fallen heavily, but that the bulk of Champagne sales take place during the second half of the calendar year.

The same message should be applied in 2010, following reports from Champagne industry council CIVC and several producers that sales have rebounded in early 2010.

Laurent-Perrier today reported an 18% rise in sales in the final quarter of its fiscal year, which runs from January to the end of March. However, its EUR31.2m sales in this period represented less than a fifth of sales for the whole fiscal year.

The key period of 2010 has yet to arrive for Champagne.

With a world economy looking increasingly shaky once more, investors in Laurent-Perrier could be forgiven for their nervousness.

A worst-case scenario would be a double-dip recession in key markets that coincides with the main Champagne sales season.