Champagne sales hit record high thanks to foreigners

Sales of Champagne hit €4.75 billion last year but it's not just the French who clearly have cause to celebrate.

Champagne sales hit record high thanks to foreigners

Champagne set a new sales record of €4.75 billion ($5.29 billion) last year thanks to growing overseas thirst for French bubbly, the industry said on Wednesday.

The figure was up 5.6 percent from 2014.

Sales to non-EU countries were up 4.8 percent, totalling a record 70.5 million bottles with a higher average price per bottle because of transport costs.

“These faraway markets are prepared to pay the right price for a product that represents the French art of living to them,” Thibaut Le Mailloux of the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) told AFP.

In fact, these buyers are typically drawn to “rarer, more expensive” lots such as rose, vintage and prestige champagnes, he said.

A total of 312.5 million bottles were shipped in 2015 compared with 307.2 million in 2014, for a 1.7 percent increase.

Unsurprisingly, December was once again the bubbliest month with 42 million bottles sold.

The year 2007 retains the record for sales volume, at 339 million bottles, but their total value was €4.56 billion.

CIVC co-president Jean-Marie Barillere said in December that value was likely to continue to grow faster than volume “in the decades to come”.

Sales within France stayed level with 2014 at 162 million bottles after several consecutive years of declining sales.

For Europe, sales were up 3.3 percent at 80.2 million bottles, continuing an upward trend seen last year.

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French Champagne makers threaten boycott of Russia over ‘sparkling wine’ label

Russian elites could soon find themselves without their favourite French bubbles if Moet Hennessy makes good on a threat to halt champagne supplies following a new law signed by President Vladimir Putin.

French Champagne makers threaten boycott of Russia over 'sparkling wine' label
Russian lawmakers adopted legislation saying the word "champagne" can only be applied to wine produced in Russia. Photo: Alexander NEMENOV / AFP.

Moet Hennessy’s Russia office warned local partners it was suspending supplies after Russian lawmakers adopted legislation stipulating that the word “champagne” can only be applied to wine produced in Russia, while the world-famous tipple from France’s Champagne region should be called “sparkling wine”.

Leonid Rafailov, general director of AST, a top liquor distributor which works with a number of brands including Moet Hennessy, said on Saturday his firm had received a letter from the French company notifying it of the suspension.

“I confirm that such a letter exists, and it is justified,” Rafailov told AFP.

He said that in accordance with the legislation – signed off on by Putin on Friday – the company would have to undergo new registration procedures, among other requirements.

Sebastien Vilmot, Moet Hennessy managing director in Russia, declined to speak to AFP.

But in a statement released through Rafailov, Vilmot called the suspension a “temporary” measure before a solution could be found.

Moet Hennessy is part of French luxury goods group LVMH and known for such brands as Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon.

The French are fiercely protective of the term “champagne”, and it can only be made in the French region of the same name.

A copy of Moet Hennessy’s letter was first published on social media on Friday by a representative of a Moscow-based liquor importer and distributor.

Drinks market expert Vadim Drobiz suggested the legislation was open to interpretation but added that Moet Hennessy’s share of the Russian market was relatively small and well-heeled clients could find a replacement.

“If there is no Moet, there won’t be a state coup and Russian elites will not commit suicide,” Drobiz quipped.

But wine consultant Anna Chernyshova questioned the purpose of the amendments. “My phone has been ringing off the hook,” she said. “Me and my clients are thinking what to do next.”

Chernyshova, who helps people build wine collections, said she was not sure why the Russian parliament had passed such a law. “How will they walk back on it?” she told AFP. “So many officials love this champagne.”

Social media was abuzz with jokes, with wits making fun of the latest piece of Russian legislation. “Now it’s necessary to ban Scots and Americans from using the word “whisky”, joked restaurateur Sergei Mironov.

Popular singer Vasya Oblomov said Russian lawmakers could now adopt similar legislation regulating the use of the name “Mercedes” and even place names.

“I thought it was a joke,” wrote Putin’s self-exiled critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. “I was wrong.”