Cheap Christmas cheer as champagne bubble bursts

French families will be toasting the holidays with cheap champagne this year thanks to big supermarket chains that are offering "discount bubbly," much to the annoyance of producers.

For key industry players, champagne rhymes with luxury and should not be sold on the cheap, even during these times of economic hardship.

But France's biggest retailer, Carrefour, is setting the trend for "discount bubbly" just as the industry is struggling with a drop in export sales after several boom years.

"We are going to offer champagne for fewer than 10 euros (15 dollars) a bottle for the holiday season," said Christophe Blaise, Carrefour manager in Reims, the Champagne region's capital.

"It's going to be a loss leader though, and will not target serious Champagne lovers," he said.

Champagne sales dropped 19 percent in the first six months of the year and producers are saddled with more than 1.2 billion bottles in excess stock.

Paul-Francois Vranken, chairman of Vranken Pommery and a member of the top half of France's Fortune 500 club, said the global economic slump had hit sales hard, with many foreign buyers drastically reducing their orders.

"I deplore this practice of price cutting because the prices do not reflect the value of champagne," he said.

"It's terrible to devalue the product in this way," he said, but added: "Given the financial difficulties it's understandable."

Vranken said the slump in Champagne sales was temporary and linked to a problem with excess stock instead of falling consumption.

Over the past decade soaring stock markets and property prices have been matched by record sales of sparkling French wine, driven by its success among the new wealthy class in Russia and China.

But last year's financial crisis brought the boom to an end and 2009 appears set to fare no better.

The head of Nicolas Feuillatte, the biggest champagne cooperative in the region, said industry problems should not be allowed to tarnish the image of France's top-selling wine product.

"There are people in the industry who are deep in debt and so the temptation to cut prices is strong," Dominique Pierre said.

"But to sell below cost would be foolhardy because it would affect the symbolic value of champagne."

Patrick Le Brun, head of the CGV trade body of Champagne producers, suggested it would be best to weather the storm instead of trying to sell at discount prices.

"Every bottle sold at a discount price is one less for sale when the market picks up," said Le Brun.

France's champagne export sales will once again sparkle, according to Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, head of the Taittinger Champagne house.

"Our champagne has never been better and during hard times we should not deprive ourselves of a luxury good that is still affordable," he said.

Champagne's prestige and high prices are maintained by strict controls on quality and origin.

Only wines from grapes grown in 33,500 hectares of approved vineyards in 319 communes of the region can be called Champagne, although 40 more communes will soon be added to this "appellation."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Restaurant Manager / Sommelier

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Seasonal Placement

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Receptionists - Poole

    £12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Lifeguards / Leisure Club Attendants - Seasonal Placement

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Qualified Lifeguards are required to join a fa...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn