Australia has bucked the global downturn in Champagne consumption, leading to supply issues for some high-end brands.
Piper-Heidsieck global general manager Benoit Collard told the Australian Financial Review that sales are up 20-40% for the year-to-date compared with 2019. He said Australia has been a standout market at a time when demand had been sinking in western Europe in particular.
“For the last six months we’ve witnessed strong activity within the whole retail environment in Australia,” he said.
“The growth and the dynamics are probably illustrating that people, yes indeed, are trading up. They keep on drinking better, and they keep on drinking better more.”
Collard said total sales across the Champagne industry projected to be 230 million bottles for 2020, down from 290 million bottles in 2019. He blamed the economic fallout from high numbers of COVID-19 cases as being a major factor. It’s a different story locally, with some retailers even reporting shortages of high-end brands such as Bollinger, Ruinart and Billecart, as they wait for new shipments to arrive.
Bellevue Hill Bottle Shop owner Dan Farrenc said his store has not had any new stock of Ruinart for four to six weeks.
“And my next shipment isn’t until mid-February,” he said.
Anthony D’Anna, co-owner of Boccaccio Cellars in Melbourne said: “Demand for high-end champagne and champagne in general has been off the charts.”
As an interesting aside, Joe Biden’s win in the US election lead to a shortage of champagne in the capital Washington as some stores almost ran out of stock.
Champagne sales booming since Mother’s Day
Australia is one of the fastest growing champagne markets in the world, with sales growing almost 140% in the past 10 years. However, the market suffered a setback in 2018 with a slight fall, followed by sharper declines in 2019. But our revived taste for fancy bubbles has been gathering momentum since May, when consumers were coming out of the first lockdown and seeking to celebrate Mother’s Day in style.
In August, Inge Fransen, chief executive of Vranken Pommery Australia, told The Australian: “Champagne is under a lot of pressure in every continent in the world but Australia turns out to be doing quite well. Closing of licenced venues had an impact in April and May but since then things have turned around and through retail people have been ordering online and consuming at home. We are back in growth.”
IRI Lead Consultant – Liquor, Jarna McLean, said: “Consumers who would have previously spent $100 on a bottle of wine in a restaurant are now splurging on luxury drops at home.
“We’re seeing similar trends in premium Champagnes, as customers treat themselves during the current restrictions. The trend became evident over the week of Mother’s Day, where we saw an additional 32,000 bottles of Champagne sold versus Mother’s Day 2019.”
“This shift to luxury across the wider wine category does not look to be slowing down either with wine priced above $50 growing two times faster than total wine.”
As Taittinger President Vitalie Taittinger notes: “Champagne is a symbol of happiness and celebration, for when the smile is back. When you want to enjoy life with your friends, it is time for champagne.”
Tyson Stelzer has named his Top 12 Champagnes of 2020: Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru 2008; Deutz Amour de Deutz Brut Millésime 2008 en magnum; Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 168 NV; Egly-Ouriet Brut Grand Cru Millésime 2008; Bollinger La Grande Année 2012; Louis Roederer Cristal 2012; Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2012; Bollinger PN VZ15 NV; Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2009; Charles Heidsieck Millésime Brut 2012; Ayala No 7 2007; Franck Bonville Collection Privée 2008.