Regarding the apparent problems the French Champagne houses are having this year, I feel like I've done my fair share. Though domestic sparkling wine producers will be happier with my efforts, I do currently have a decent number of recently purchased bottles of Champagne. The point is that I'm not to blame for the woes afflicting Reims and its surroundings.
So now that my culpability is out of the way, I need to turn to something in this article that surprised me:
"At least 83 per
cent of champagne is sold and consumed in a 600-mile radius around
Reims, the Champagne capital. “There’s still a lot of potential for
growth further afield,” said Mr Lorson."
Mr. Lorson is a spokesperson for the official Champagne trade group. He'd know these things. Can it possibly be true that at maximum only 17% of all Champagne produced actually leaves the France? Last year 338 million bottles of Champagne were produced. That means that 294 million bottles were consumed within a 600 mile radius of the place and at maximum 57 million bottles were exported. That's approximately 4.7 million 12 bottle cases.
Lorson says that despite the "collapse" in Champagne sales, there is room for growth. I suspect that sales of Champagne will be down significantly for the last 3 months of 2008 and for all of the coming 2009. So what can the Champagne houses do?
Well first of all, they need to get on their knees, form a circle around the town of Reims, and bow down in prayer and reverence for the support they get from those who live around them. After that, they know exactly what to do: Lower their prices.
Veuve Cliquot NV Brut, for example, costs between $30 and $50 a bottle, depending on the hopefulness of the various retailers across the country. This is silly. It's nice Champagne, but it's not THAT much better than Roederer Estate, now is it?