The relative performances of the French champagne and sparkling wine markets come under the scrutiny of Retail Intelligence in the June and September editions of Consumer Goods Europe.

June’s Market Survey feature reports how last year’s “outstanding” grape yield has put an end to fears that a surge in champagne prices would dampen this year’s millennium celebrations. Poor weather conditions and mildew blighted the harvest of 1997 and stock shortages were expected to cost customers in 1999. However, retailers and revellers alike have been reprieved. 1998 was the best harvest for 15 years and produced some 342 million bottles of champagne.

As a result, price increases per bottle of champagne are expected to be moderate and Retail Intelligence predicts that they will remain within the 5-10% bracket despite the approach of the millennium.

Since 1993 harvest production has been strictly controlled by the Comité Interproffessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) with any excess yield stored, or ‘blocked’, as “réserve qualitative”. In preparation for the millennium it was decided to ‘unblock’ all the excess wine from the 1992, 1993 and 1994 harvests, some 72 million bottles in total. As a result, it will not be necessary for the CIVC to sacrifice any of this year’s réserve qualitative to meet the demand for the millennium celebrations and champagne stocks will be in good health at the start of the next century.

In 1998 France exported over 24 million bottles of champagne to its number one customer, the UK. September’s Market Survey feature reveals that in the same year, exports of sparkling wine amounted to only 45 million bottles worldwide. This report examines how the French view of sparkling wine as a ‘poor man’s champagne’ has produced a domestic market reliant on hypermarket outlets and an export market dominated by the German ‘Sekt’, Italian ‘Asti’ and Spanish ‘Cava’ brands.

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By GlobalData

The French preference for champagne, amongst both authorities and consumers, continues to leave the sparkling wines market stagnating, but it ensures that foreign consumers will enjoy the benefits this new year and into the millennium.