France’s champagne sellers halt early sales to prevent price fall

The French champagne industry's trade body suspended early sales of the iconic sparkling wine Wednesday in an effort to support prices and deal with a huge stock overhang made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

France's champagne sellers halt early sales to prevent price fall
Photo: AFP

Champagne have been hit extremely hard by the lockdown with lost revenues so far estimated at €1.7 billion as people find few reasons to celebrate with a bottle of bubbly.

Producers have sold around 100 million fewer bottles so far this year, or about a third of the annual total last year, many are in sore need of cash – hence the halt on sales.

But anyone who is in a party mood will still be able to pick up a bottle (or two) of champagne – it is only early sales of the sparkling wine that have been halted.

The Comite Champagne which regulates the industry has banned until June 8th the pre-sale of bottles that are still in the fermentation process to prevent retail prices from falling steeply.

Champagne makers usually pre-sell some 10 to 15 million bottles per year of the sparkling wine that can spend one to five years slowly fermenting in the bottle while being stocked on its side.

“It is to preserve the value of the product in a context where we are selling practically nothing,” said Jean-Marie Barillere, co-president of the Comite Champagne.

But with global excess supply estimated at 400 million bottles, Barillere said the ban was just a first emergency step and that further measures would be announced at the end of the month after consultations with the French state and European Commission.

“It sends shivers down your spine,” said Barillere.

“Companies are going to disappear.”

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Macron demands France take ‘protective measures’ against Covid rise in China

French President Emmanuel Macron has asked his government to take "protective measures" as China sees an explosion of Covid-19 cases. The EU was also set to meet on Thursday to discuss measures.

Macron demands France take 'protective measures' against Covid rise in China

Macron has made it clear he is following developments in China very closely and has asked his government to put in place appropriate measures.

Those measures were yet to be announced on Thursday morning but the French government could follow the path of Italy and impose all travellers from China to provide a negative Covid-19 test before arriving in the country.

The French government said it was “ready to study all the useful measures that could be implemented in conjunction with France’s European partners and within the legal framework that exists today”.

On August 1, 2022 France adopted new rules to combat Covid-19 after scrapping its state of emergency. The text gave the government the right – until January 31st 2023 – to require travellers aged 12 and over to present a negative Covid-19 test prior to entering the territory in the event of a “new variant likely to constitute a serious health threat.” 

In Brussels the European Commission was to hold a meeting on Thursday to “discuss possible measures for a coordinated approach” by EU states in response to the explosion of Covid-19 cases in China.

Italy said on Wednesday it was reinstating mandatory coronavirus tests for arrivals from China following an explosion in cases there, with Milan’s Malpensa airport finding around half of all passengers tested were positive.

Coronavirus infections have surged in China as it unwinds tight controls that had torpedoed the economy and sparked nationwide protests.

China on Monday scrapped quarantine for inbound travellers from January 8th onwards, dismantling the last remaining piece of its stringent zero-Covid policy and ending some of the world’s harshest border restrictions.