Early estimates from Champagne predict the region shipped 302 million bottles in 2018, a drop of more than 5 million bottles compared with 2017. Producers attribute the expected decline to the country’s gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protests and uncertainty surrounding Brexit, The Drinks Business reports.
According to the co-president of the Comité Champagne Jean-Marie Barillère, the actual figure may be even lower than the 302-million estimate, because the full impact of the gilets jaunes protests is still unknown.
The protests took place in France during the last six weeks of the year, with riots in Paris leading to the closure of many of the city’s key shopping districts. Roadblocks across the country also impacted the delivery of Champagne to retailers during the festive period.
Barillère said the 2018 decline wasn’t only due to events in France ,but was also the result of poor sales in the UK, Champagne’s second most important market. He attributed the drop across the English Channel to uncertainty around the implications of Brexit.
“People aren’t spending much in London either because they don’t know where you are going,” he said.
The estimated shipment figures for 2018 would mark the lowest number since 2009, when sales were hit by a significant decline because of the global financial crisis. During that year, Champagne shipped 293 million bottles.
But it’s not all bad news for the region’s producers. Turnover for 2018 is predicted to remain stable or even experience a slight increase.
A drop in demand for inexpensive Champagne is what’s driving the shipments decline, Barillère says, but the premium branded sector is enjoying particular success, especially in Europe, the US, Japan, and Australia. So while Champagne may have shipped fewer bottles than 2017, a higher proportion of what was shipped came with a premium price tag.