Vranken-Pommery Monopole becomes first French Champagne house to sell English wine

The launch of Louis Pommery England Brut, a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, marks the first time an English wine has been sold by a French Champagne house.

Available online now from Ocado, the release of the wine follows a production agreement between the French company and Hampshire wine producer Hattingley Valley, which was announced in 2016.

However, Vranken-Pommery Monopole is this year planting a major new vineyard in Alresford, Hampshire, Harpers can reveal.

“The vineyard will represent 32ha of plantings and we will plant the three Champagne varieties. The most planted will be the famous Chardonnay, followed by Pinot Noir and a small part will be Pinot Meunier,” said Julien Lonneux, international development director at Vranken-Pommery Monopole.

Started in October 2017, the plantings would continue until May 2019,” Lonneux told Harpers.

“Our British adventure started back in 2015; when looking at the viticulture development in the UK and the weather conditions becoming milder, we immediately seized the opportunity,” he said.

As well as fresh investment from new producers, existing big producers are expanding production.

Harpers can reveal that English sparkling producer Nyetimber, based in West Sussex and Hampshire, is now expanding into the chalky soil of Kent with plantings of 38ha of vines this year.

Nyetimber now has two sites in Kent, one in Canterbury and one in East Kent near Ashford, with its amount of land in the county totalling 55ha.

In addition, fellow Kent producer, Westwell Wines, has this year embarked on a major expansion.

Westwell Wines’ plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, using Burgundy clones, will start this year with a total of 18.5 acres  (7.48ha) being planted by the end of 2019, Westwell Wines new managing director and winemaker, Adrian Pike, told Harpers.

Pike, who previously worked at Davenport vineyard in Sussex, took over production at Westwell wines in September 2017.

Although the majority of new plantings this year, will be in Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, further new vineyards are being planted in Essex, East Anglia, Dorset, Berkshire and in the Midlands.

“The new investments showed serious commitment from producers to English wine,” Brad Greatrix, head winemaker at Nyetimber told Harpers.

Vine plantings in the UK have tripled since 2004 with annual growth rate of between 7% and 10% each year according to English wine consultant, Stephen Skelton MW.

The wave of new vine plantings in the UK comes as industry body, Wine GB predicts plantings will reach at least the same amount as in 2017, when English wine producers announced a million vines planted.

“Investment is coming from several new producers and farmers are diversifying into wine production. We anticipate plantings in 2018 to be equal to or greater than the number of vine plantings made in 2017,” a vine planting industry source said.

“The big producers are expanding to spread the risk of any bad vintages at existing sites. As well as Sussex and Hampshire, there is keen interest in Kent, but also in Essex and East Anglia,” he said, with several producers wcontemplating using the Charmat method of production used in the making of Prosecco.

The expansion of wine production in the UK this year comes as Wines of GB, chaired by Simon Robinson - owner of Hattingley Valley, is poised to announce its new industry strategy focusing on exports and tourism.

This May, Vineyards of Hampshire, a collective of seven English wine producers, will launch the county’s first Wine Tourism Route called ‘Cellar Door Experiences.’

Producers in Hampshire will open their doors to tourists on Fridays and Saturdays on specific dates in the summer and in September., with producers currently drawing up a map for the new wine route, which will allow wine drinkers to taste and purchase wines at vineyards.

Highlighting the expansion of the English wine industry, Wines of GB, is this year hosting its first wine tasting at RHS Lindley Hall, on April 26th, a far larger venue than One Great George Street, where English Wine Producers tastings were previously held.

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Wettest weeks in Champagne

The last two months have been the wettest since Metéo France began to record the country's rainfall in 1959.

While it may not have held the record of the wettest area in France, there has been an abundance of rain in Champagne and both the Aube and Marne departments remain on orange alert, and people are advised to be very attentive and stay away from the water's edge.

The reason for the alert is the flooded state of the Seine (in the Aube) and the Marne rivers. Both rivers burst their banks just before Christmas, and water levels have remained high through January. This has resulted in large-scale flooding in the Bar-sur-Seine and the Vallée de la Marne areas. Winemakers with buildings close to either river have found themselves up till their ankles (or knees) in cold river water.

Champagne Devaux, was forced to close its visitor center (Le Manoir Champagne Devaux) in Bar-sur-Seine. The Manoir, located in a 2-hectare park right next to the Seine, flooded twice in January, with water levels above one meter in parts of the building. Aurélie Neveux, the visitor center manager,confirmed the the Manoir needs extensive renovations, and that the center will remain closed for an undefined period. In the meantime, Champagne Devaux will open a temporary visitor center on its operational site, located a little higher in the village.

Meanwhile in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, close to the Marne, Charles Philipponnat, general manager of Champagne Philipponnat told Wine-Searcher the Champagne House had around 10 cm of water in its cellars. "We have been pumping the cellar around the clock for the last few weeks to prevent it from rising further. This means the Champagne bottles have not been affected." Nevertheless, the water regularly causes electrical short circuits and has made it difficult to use the wine elevators, even permanently damaging one.

Still, Philipponnat recalls that flooding of the Marne is not really that rare, even if you have to go back to 2001 for a similar inundation. Micheline Tarlant, fromChampagne Tarlant adds to this that severe flooding of the Marne happened quite regularly before the Lac du Der-Chantecoq was added to its catchment basin in 1974. The Seine in the Aube has a similar river drainage lake, the Lac d'Orient, put into service in 1966. These lakes generally prevent the rivers from overflowing, however since both lakes are currently filled to the brim, it is likely the region will remain flooded for a while, especially since the lakes are set to release some of the excess water.

Even if many Champagne producers located close to the river have suffered damages from the floods, the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, which houses millions of champagne bottles in a myriad of cellars, remains unscathed. Christophe Bonnefond, wine operations manager at MCHS, said that the cellars at Champagne Moet and Chandon and Champagne Mercier located at opposite ends of the Avenue de Champagne, remain dry.

The Champagne vineyards have also escaped flood damage. According to the appellation criteria, vineyards are planted on a slope to capture most of the sunlight. With the average gradient being 12 percent, it's highly unlikely that the river water would ever raise high enough to create havoc in the vineyard. Nevertheless, the incessant rain has saturated the soils, and the water table has risen to just under 17 meters in certain areas. If the water tables continue to rise, it is likely that cellar flooding becomes more widespread before the end of the winter.

The soggy and often slippery soil has also slowed down the pruning and tying tasks, especially on steep slopes. Yet the extreme mild winter weather has already caused some vines to weep, indicating the plant is readying itself for budburst. This combination has made many winegrowers extremely apprehensive and irritable, fearing once again severe frost damage later in the season. Fingers crossed this will not happen.

Chapel Down sees excellent harvest 2017 despite Spring frost

The drinks maker saw a 10% rise in grape yield since 2016; second highest yield of fruit to date at the completion of their 2017 harvest on Thursday.

The industry saw a difficult start to the growing season, with a number of English vineyards hit by a frost in late April.

But things began to look up this summer. English wine producers said they were more optimistic about this year’s harvest following a strong heatwave in June.

The hot weather helped to mitigate the damage done to vineyards.

Further reducing the risk of frost damage, Chapel Down sourced grapes 23 vineyards across the south of England including sites in Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex, Kent and Essex.

Frazer Thompson, chief executive of Chapel Down Group, said that the combination of an early harvest and good weather throughout the Summer months contributed to the larger yield.

“Following a challenging start to the season,” he said, “we enjoyed an excellent flowering season in June and a decent English summer in our vineyards.”

He said that quality was high across all varieties, adding that this year the harvest yielded “some truly exceptional parcels of Chardonnay.”

“With demand continuing to exceed our ability to supply, and the quality of wines continuing to improve, this harvest is further positive news for the Group.”

Chapel Down owns the largest vineyard (115 acres) in Kent, the Kit’s Coty estate on the North Downs, while also sourcing grapes from a further 13 vineyards across the South East of England.

Most expensive dram of Scotch ever sold is a fake

The bottle of 1878 Macallan became the centre of attention a few months ago when a Chinese tourist paid CHF9,999 (£7,700) for a dram of it in a Swiss hotel.

This story alone made headlines but Scotch experts and enthusiasts quickly smelt a rat when pictures of the bottle circulated, with many raising doubts as to its authenticity.

The Waldhaus am See’s manager Sandro Bernasconi, and Scotch whisky consultancy firm Rare Whisky 101 carried out a number of scientific and forensic tests on the bottle and its liquid and have concluded it is indeed a fake.

A sample sent to the University of Oxford’s Research Laboratory for Archaeology and The History of Art suggested, with a 95% probability, that the liquid had been made between 1970 to 1972, while further tests carried out by Tatlock and Thomson showed the spirit was likely a blend of 60% malt and 40% grain whisky.

RW101 co-founder, David Robertson, commented: “The Waldhaus team have done exactly the right thing by trying to authenticate this whisky. Over the past year, we have been invited by numerous bottle owners and auction houses to assess suspicious bottles. Indeed, we’ve noticed an increasing number of old, rare archive or antique bottles coming to market at auction, and it’s difficult to know how prevalent this problem is.

“We would implore that others in the market do what they can to identify any rogue bottles. The more intelligence we can provide, the greater the chance we have to defeat the fakers and fraudsters who seek to dupe the unsuspecting rare whisky consumer. We’re also working closely with The Macallan brand owner, Edrington, as they start to take a leadership position on fake whisky.”

Bernasconi added: “When it comes to selling our customers some of the world’s rarest and oldest whiskies, we felt it was our duty to ensure that our stock is 100% authentic and the real deal. That’s why we called in RW101. The result has been a big shock to the system, and we are delighted to have repaid our customer in full as a gesture of goodwill.”

As reported on, Scotchwhisky.com at the time a number of whisky experts and enthusiasts pointed out that the bottle is very likely from a run of infamous knock-offs that were produced in Italy some years ago as the Scotch mania began to gather momentum.

A number of remarkably similar bottles were scooped up by The Macallan itself in the early 2000s to bolster its old library stock but subsequent tests revealed the whiskies to be fake with the spirit inside probably no older than 10 years or so.

The possible provenance of the bottle was brought up on one site called Whiskyfun, run by the experienced collector Serge Valentin.

Among the notable ‘tells’ that the bottle might not be all it claims to be is the condition of the label which is too new for such a rarity (fake fine wines often have too-pristine labels as well) and the cork doesn’t look like one that has actually spent over 100 years in a bottle neck.

Another crucial detail is that the label claims that the Speyside malt is guaranteed by “Roderick Kemp, proprietor, Macallan and Talisker Distilleries Ltd.”

Kemp was a giant of the Scotch distilling industry in the mid to late 19th century and owned both The Macallan and Talisker but, importantly, never at the same time.

As Robertson concluded in a statement: “As with any purchase, we would recommend that each buyer does their research, assesses the bottle and its packaging presentation, and where they can afford to do so, send some of the liquid for technical evaluation and/or carbon dating. If you do have a pre-1900’s bottle we suggest it’s worth extracting a sample to prove if it is genuine or not (most likely not).”

Bumper year for English wine.

English wine enjoyed a bumper year in 2016, and it is now £130m industry, a new study shows.

Independent English wine producers saw their turnover rise to a record £132 million last year, a 16 per cent increase on 2015, showing that the industry has enjoyed major growth in recent years, according to Funding Options.

Research by the online business finance firm revealed that wine producers are benefiting from the growing popularity of boutique British alcohol production, including gin and craft beer as well as wine.

Conrad Ford, founder of Funding Options, said: "English wine is going from strength to strength.

"The English wine industry is not only gaining traction amongst domestic consumers, but is now being ranked with wines from traditional white wine-producing countries such as France and Germany."

In May, a wine from Norfolk was named as the best white wine in the world at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Winbirri Vineyards' Bacchus 2015, which sells for £13.95 a bottle, beat off 17,200 other entries to win the Platinum Best in Show, and was given a score of 95 out of 100 by a panel of 200 international experts.

Winbirri is a family-run vineyard, beside Norfolk Broads National Park, that was established in 2007.

At the time, Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “It comes as no surprise to us that an English Bacchus wine has won a major international award. Up until now English Sparkling Wine has been grabbing most of the headlines for its outstanding quality.

"It was only a matter of time before an English still wine showed the world it can also compete with the best.

"The UK climate is ideal for growing the Bacchus grape which is why it has become the favoured grape grown in the majority of UK vineyards making still white wine.

"We believe Bacchus has the potential to do for English wine production what Sauvignon Blanc did for New Zealand.”


Talk about a dodgy pint!

A US man has been awarded $750,000 after a beer tainted with caustic chemicals burned his internal organs nearly killing him.

Richard Washart, a former Ocean City police lieutenant, was at a McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant in Harrah’s casino in Atlantic City in 2012 when the indicent happened.

As reported by Fortune.com, Washart had taken one gulp of the beer and immediately felt a burning pain in his throat. He vomited six times, and was unable to even drink water because of the pain. He suffered severe burns to the oesophagus and stomach, and was hospitalised for six days.

It was later confirmed that the beer Washart consumed was tainted with a caustic agent that is normally used to clean the beer tap lines.

This week, a jury ruled in his favour, awarding him $650,000 for pain and suffering and $100,000 for emotional distress.

McCormick & Schmick’s had blamed its beer lines cleaner, Kramer Beverage Co., of Hammonton who was responsible for cleaning the pipes. Kramer Beverage denied being at the restaurant when Washart drank the beer, but was still ordered to pay half the award along with McCormick & Schmick’s.

The restaurant’s parent company, Landry’s Inc., has said it will appeal the ruling.

New Jersey museum discovers 220 year old wine bought to celebrate 2nd US president’s inauguration

From The Independent

A museum in New Jersey has discovered several cases of wine from 1796 that are believed to have been shipped over to celebrate John Adam’s presidency.

The Madeiracollection was discovered in Liberty Hall Museum during an extensive renovation to allow visitors to explore different eras of American history. Part of the renovation work included updating the building’s wine cellars – and it turns out the wine collection is slightly more interesting than curators had previously realised.

"We knew there was a lot of liquor down here, but we had no idea as to the age of it, said" Liberty Hall President John Kean. "I think the most exciting part of it was to find liquor, or Madeira in this case, that goes back so far. And then trying to trace why it was here and who owned it."

While the museum has always known that there were old wines in its collection, it wasn’t until each bottle was catalogued that experts found that several cases of Madeira wine were hundreds of years old, and were likely shipped over from Portugal to toast the second President of the US.

Researchers based this assumption on the date of the wine and the fact that Madeira was a drink reserved for the top brass – it was chosen by the wealthy due to the fact it didn’t lose its flavour while crossing the Atlantic. Bill Schroh Jr., director of operations at Liberty Hall, said: "So you could open some of these bottles, and it might be perfect."

The wine racks in the cellar were enclosed when Schroh started working at the museum 20 years ago – he said this was probably done by the Kean family during Prohibition to protect the collection. The museum has now removed the extra wall so that visitors can see the wines on display.

When the museum announced the discovery of the collection, it was contacted by The Rare Wine Co., a premier wine merchant based in California, which tested the Madeira and confirmed its age. Museum staff also decided to try some of the centuries-old wine. They filled a decanter with Madeira from one of the original casks, which tasted similar to sweet sherry wine according to those who tried it.

The Madeira collection is believed to be the biggest in the US and one of the largest in the world.

French harvest set for historic low after frost hits.

From Decanter Magazine

Production from France’s 2017 wine harvest may fall by 17 percent to between 37 million hectolitres (4.9bn bottles) and 38.2 million hectolitres, versus 45.5 million in 2016, the country’s ministry of agriculture said.

Frostand hail are largely to blame.

 This would be a ‘historic low’, said the ministry – 16% lower than the five-year average and worse than 1991, a vintage also hit hard by frost.

Such a drop could mean that wines from some areas become harder to find, and so more expensive. It is the second successive year that frost has struck hard in some areas.

Bordeaux 2017 production could be ‘strongly impacted’ by spring frosts with a 50% fall in production versus 2016, said the report. The Right Bank was hit harder. Many top estates had the resources to employ frost avoidance techniques, even flying helicopters over vines to circulate the air.

However, flowering went well. ‘Vines are two or three weeks ahead versus the average growing season,’ said Thomas Duclos, of Oenoteam in Libourne, on the Right Bank.

Veraison [ripening] started at the beginning of July,’ said Vincent Bache-Gabrielsen, winemaker of Château Pédesclaud in Pauillac. ‘Everything looks good.’

 The Champagne harvest was expected to rise by 8 percent in 2017, but still 9 percent below the 2012-2016 average. The growing season was running 10 days ahead of 2016.

In Burgundy and Beaujolais, a good flowering period means production will rise by 14 percent versus a small 2016 crop, official said

In Alsace, frost means 30% lower production than in 2016, with early budding variety Gewurztraminer hit hardest.

At flowering, there was ‘a lot of coulure [poor fruit set] among Riesling grapes’, Celine Meyer, CEO of Domaine Josmeyer, told Decanter.com. ‘Pinot Gris are perfect for the moment,’ she added, but there was concern at low water levels.

 In Languedoc-Roussillon, severe frost affected both the Aude and Hérault areas. Production is set to fall by 6%.

Coulure has been a particular problem for Grenache in Languedoc and also in Provence and the Southern Rhône Valley, which have also had problems with powdery mildew.

In the Loire, frost has cut production by 10% to 40% in some places. But, overall, the region’s growers are set to pick 15 days earlier than average and production will rise by 7 percent versus 2016, which was also hit by frost.

Hot early summer weather means that the growing season across France was running between 10 and 20 days ahead of normal, which may help surviving grapes to ripen fully.


Fake fine wine trader jailed after £100K scam!

Lasse Hartmann has been sentenced to four years in prison for masterminding a £100,000 scam in which he pretended to be a multi-millionaire businessman trading in fine wine and Champagne.

Hartmann, 44 and a Danish national, sold wine investment packages and used the money to fund his expensive lifestyle. Following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Fraud and Linked Crime Online unit, it was revealed that 20 people had fallen victim to the fraudster.

Commenting on the case, PC Alex Ramsay of the Met’s Falcon Unit who investigated the scam, said: “Hartmann is a professional conman and fraudster. He didn’t care about the people he was hurting, either financially or emotionally. He exploited everyone around him, not least the woman who thought that she was going to marry him.”

“He used her status as a respected food blogger to give him credibility and from there managed to convince a number of businesses to go into partnership with him. He never had any intention of delivering his side of the bargain and simply used their money to fund his lavish lifestyle and gambling habit.”

“Hartmann is now facing the very real prospect of time in prison, which reflects the devastation and misery he has caused to such a large number of victims”.

Hartmann’s victims lost more than £104,000 and many are still out of pocket. Hartmann paid back a total of £18,000 after realising the police were investigating him.

The scam started in January 2014 when Hartmann began an online relationship with a woman from Ilford. Using the alias Lars Petraeus, he convinced the woman that he was a wealthy businessman trading in fine wine. Winning her trust, he convinced the woman to loan him several thousand pounds citing cash-flow problems, while also taking control of two inactive bank accounts in the woman’s name.

The woman was an influential food blogger who provided Hartmann with contacts in the food industry that he also went on to exploit, promising and failing to deliver wine and Champagne to them.

An online meat trader was also conned by Hartmann after he invested with the fraudster in the belief that he was expanding his business into the wine trade. He purchased wine, fridges and IT equipment from Hartmann that never arrived and his business lost a total of almost £20,000.

Through his association with this other businesses, Hartmann contacted the staff of partner companies, offering wine investment packages priced at £240 and above, receiving a total of £11,000 from unsuspecting individuals.

He hired a personal assistant and chauffeur to give him further legitimacy, however, he left them both with unpaid wages totalling £25,000 as well as convincing his driver to invest £2,500 in wine.

Hartmann also duped a chef out of £3,500 and a wedding planner, who invested £5,500 in a wine package and whose business lost £25,000 in revenue, after being involved in organising Hartmann’s bogus wedding.

In April this year, Hartmann was convicted of 22 counts of fraud and on 19 July, at Snaresbrook Crown Court, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

After completion of his sentence, Hartmann will return to Denmark as he is wanted by Danish authorities ‘for breaching the terms of his sentence there,’ having been earlier convicted of similar fraudulent offences in the country.

Most Brits still know little about choosing wine

From the article published in Harpers.

New research from Asda has shown the extent of consumers’ mystification around wine, with over a third of UK drinkers sticking to the same bottle of wine every time they shop.

It’s a well-known fact that the wine mainstays have remained the same for well over a decade, with consumers repeatedly filling up their baskets with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay on trips to the supermarket.

But a new study by Asda has highlighted the gap between how far Brits are willing to explore in the food aisles and how that has yet to translate to wine.

Some of the report’s key findings include the statistic that 15% of consumers spend less than 10 seconds picking a bottle as ‘wine fright’ sets in and they become overwhelmed by the amount of choice available.

42% said they find wine jargon confusing and misunderstand commonly used terms, while a third (37%) of UK drinkers admitted to buying the same bottle of wine and never trying anything new.

Over one fifth of those surveyed (22%) said they can find the vast amount of wine to choose from intimidating and don’t know where to start when it comes to picking a new bottle.

Perhaps most concerning, is that two fifths (39%) of Brits cannot name any wine varieties, and a further 17% think there are only three grape varieties: red, white and rosé.

Habitual shopping patterns have led Asda to dub one of their wine experts, Ed Betts, a “sommeasier” – making him the face of the supermarket’s efforts to make wine more accessible to "bamboozled" British consumers.

As part of this new push, Asda also putting together The Sommeasier Guide to help furnish consumers with confidence and knowledge to explore.

A keen advocate of taking the simple approach when it comes to marketing wine to consumers, is Copestick Murray MD Robin Copestick.

In 2010, Copestick launched its successful I heart range and since then, the range has had considerable success with its a varietal-led approach.

While Asda’s report found that 39% of Brits find it difficult to name even one grape variety, we know that British consumers often shop by varieties that they are familiar with and find the prospect of hunting for alternatives hugely overwhelming.

“In such a competitive and challenging market it’s not surprising that consumers feel nervous about stepping outside of their comfort zone,” said Copestick.

“In order to grow the industry, we need to make it easy for audiences to learn about the different varieties of wine available.

“Consumers need to feel inspired and confident about trying something new through a varied range, at a reasonable price which clearly communicates tasting notes alongside pairing suggestions.”

UK Wine Fraudsters Jailed

Two men who ripped off elderly investors end up as guests of Her Majesty. 

Two men swindled wine lovers out of almost $500,000 by promising to invest in Bordeaux – but the only wines the men bought were the ones they drank themselves.

Thomas Hole, aged 31, of London, was sentenced to four and a half years' imprisonment and 25-year-old Ryan Fraser, from Essex, was sentenced to a total of three years and four months' imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court last week.

Hole was convicted by majority jury of one count of conspiracy to defraud following a four-week trial. Fraser pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud at a previous court hearing last year and pleaded guilty to a further count of conspiracy to defraud on the first day of his trial in January.

Both men were also disqualified from being company directors for 10 years. Two other defendants who stood trial were acquitted on counts of conspiracy to defraud.

The scam involved a company, Premier Wine Investment Limited, which offered investment in fine wine, particularly Bordeaux. Victims were cold-called and persuaded to invest. They were told that they should leave their investments to grow in value over a number of years, which most investors did, allowing the defendants to use the money without being immediately detected. Investors stumped up £362,000 ($451,000) in total.

To overcome the suspicions of their bank, a new company with an almost-identical name was set up. The formation of Premier Wines Investment Limited in June 2012, allowed the offenders to continue to convince victims to pay their money in to a new separate account with a different bank, allowing them to continue their criminal activity.

The police investigation identified 13 victims, most of whom were approaching or at retirement age.

The victims had no idea that, instead of the company purchasing fine wine for them, the money was being used by the defendants on payments to their own bank accounts, was withdrawn in cash, was used on expensive overseas travel, on spa days, bespoke tailoring and on meals at restaurants. The only money which was spent on wine was the wine that the defendants purchased and consumed themselves.

Investigating officer Detective Constable Steve Conroy, of Thames Valley Police's Economic Crime Unit, said: "Thomas Hole and Ryan Fraser preyed upon the naivete and vulnerability of potential investors when they defrauded the victims in this case. This was a crime motivated by their greed, which resulted in them taking thousands of pounds of other people's retirement money and savings for themselves. Their contempt for the victims, who were mainly retired or elderly, showed they had no thought for the impact on their lives or the hardship they caused as a result."

Champagne shipments drop 2% to 306.6 million bottles.

According to the estimates released by the Comité Champagne on Monday this week, Champagne shipments worldwide, including the French market, fell by 6 million bottles in the past 12 months compared to the same period in 2015, when the region shipped a total of 312.5m bottles.

Indeed, the final figure of 306.6m for 2016 means that Champagne sales have now dropped back below 2014’s total, which amounted to 307.1m bottles, taking the region even further from its record, which was achieved ten years ago in 2007, when it shipped almost 338.8m bottles (see figures below).

Explaining the fall in the number of bottles shipped in 2016, Jean-Marie Barillère, who is president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne, told db yesterday that the decline was a result of falling sales in the French and British markets in particular.

“The total decrease has been done by France and England,” he said.

Meanwhile, Barillère recorded that Champagne shipments to the UK alone had fallen by around 3m bottles, in contrast to other European nations such as Spain and Italy, which, he said, had enjoyed increases, meaning that the EU (excluding France) accounted for 77.5m bottles in 2016, down from 80.2m in 2015.

Outside its domestic market and Europe, Champagne did enjoy growth in 2016, but with a modest 0.5% increase, this represented an extra 600,000 bottles from 70.3m in 2015 to 70.9m last year.

Although the figures for value have yet to be released, Barillère said that the total would be down by 1-2% due to exchange rates, although he stressed that 2017 would be Champagne’s second highest ever year for turnover,  having set a new record in 2016, when it reached €4.75 billion.

Indeed, if the drop was the full 2%, a total of €4.65bn for 2016 would still surpass the previous record set in 2007, when sales reached €4.56bn prior to the global financial slowdown.

The decline in shipments for 2016 has surprised some in the region, particularly as the yields set in June last year for the 2016 harvest were designed to deliver a production of 315m bottles, slightly higher than the shipment total for 2015.

Usually the yields are set to bring about a supply of Champagne that is similar if not a bit higher than the current demand.

Explaining why the yields were set to produce 315m bottles, Michel Letter, managing director of Mumm and Perrier Jouët, told db that the global market for Champagne was looking more promising in May and June last year when the yields were set*, adding that the French and UK markets had declined more than expected, while the US had not risen as much as many in Champagne had initially thought.

Summing up, he admitted, “We were a bit optimistic”.

* The yield for the 2016 harvest was set in June at 9,700 kilos per hectare with a further 1,100kg/ha to be taken from the reserve at the start of February. This produces approximately 283m bottles from the harvest with a further 32m bottles coming from the reserve, making a total production of 315m bottles.

**From the article first published in Drinks Business**

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