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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
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: Customer Service Advisor

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Excellent opportunities are available for par...

    Investigo: IT Auditor

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: A global leading travel busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie x 2

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This charming and contemporary ...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible