In Brief

Pain in Champagne: 100m bottles to go unsold as demand falls flat

Historic cut in grape harvest yield agreed in bid to shore up prices during coronavirus pandemic

Champagne makers in France are unlikely to be popping corks to celebrate sales this year, as the coronavirus crisis hits both demand and production. 

As the grape harvest for 2020’s crop kicked off yesterday, industry body Le Comite Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC) announced an unprecedented last-minute agreement to reduce grape volumes to 8,000kg per hectare (kg/ha) - a drop of almost 22% year-on-year.

This year’s harvest should produce the equivalent of around 230 million bottles of bubbly, compared with 300 million last year, according to The Drinks Business website.

Producers had been “locked in talks for weeks over harvest output”, Reuters reports. Leading champagne houses “pushed for a steep fall to shore up prices, while some growers wanted a smaller reduction to take advantage of a promising 2020 crop”, says the news agency.

Announcing the final agreement, CIVC co-president Jean-Marie Barillere said: “It was a compromise that caused some pain. But for us, it was the best decision to help the cashflow of the vineyards and to protect the champagne brand internationally.”

Sales of bubbly have gone flat across the globe, as hospitality events were cancelled and hotels, restaurants and bars closed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Industry experts predict that up to 100 million bottles of champagne will go unsold this year, resulting in a turnover loss of €1.7bn (£1.53bn). 

In a statement, the CIVC said: “Champagne, a wine of joie de vivre, conviviality and celebration, is particularly affected by the global economic crisis linked to Covid-19 and is suffering a historic drop in its shipments.”

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