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."

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
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

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power