Massive discounting in the UK off-trade price of Champagne, which began in the last quarter of 2000 and has gathered pace this year, hit a new level last week, reports Giles Fallowfield.

Sainsbury's, the UK supermarket chain has slashed its selling price for Duval-Leroy Brut non-vintage Champagne from £13.99 to £6.99 in the run-up to Easter, according to Sainsbury's Champagne buyer Julian Dyer.

Furthermore, consumers will be able to buy the brand for just £6.64 a bottle if they buy six bottles or more and take advantage of the store's further standard 5% volume discount on all wine purchases.

This latest offer comes in the wake of a stream of discounting by leading retailers of Champagne such as Majestic, First Quench and Oddbins who all cut prices by up to a third on purchases of three bottles. ASDA also recently announced it would be selling bottles of Mumm non-vintage at £7 under its list price of £19.49.

It comes against a background of three large harvests in Champagne where stocks have risen back above pre-millennium levels to over 1,000m bottles and there has been a hefty drop in prices at the bottom end of the market which may result in the re-emergence of the 'premier prix' sector.

With plenty of Champagne houses needing to sell stock and major retail players willing to cut margins dramatically, or even sell at a loss, to attract custom and increase market share, this is unlikely to be the end of the discounting frenzy.