A bubbly champagne harvest is great news for France and for wine lovers worldwide

A reason to celebrate.
A reason to celebrate.
Image: Reuters/Charles Platiau
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What was supposed to be a good year for champagne is turning out to be a great year. France’s agriculture ministry revealed Thursday (Aug. 8) that champagne production, which was supposed to increase by 11% this year, is actually slated to jump by a whopping 56% compared to 2012.

A bumper harvest doesn’t necessarily equate to a “good year”—if there’s more wine than willing wine buyers, prices can get pinched, and the quality of the harvest is often as important as the quantity—but this year’s surprisingly hefty harvest is great news for sellers and buyers alike. The champagne industry, which sells over $5 billion in sparkling wine every year, has seen global consumption grow steadily over the past decade, but it’s also suffered a slew of disappointing news as of late. A hailstorm two weeks back destroyed entire vineyards across an over 17,000 acre (6,900 hectare) area, last year’s harvest was cripplingly poor, and global champagne shipments declined 4.4% despite steady growth in demand.

France consumes roughly half of the champagne it produces, but it relies on the rest of the world to drive the industry’s growth; the UK, US and Germany consume over 60 million bottles annually, and have shown little fatigue. The US, for one, saw its consumption jump another 13% last year. Japan, Belgium, Italy, Australia and Switzerland all import over 5 million bottles apiece each year. And then there are the industry’s fast-growing markets, which, while still relatively small, are exploding.

Chinese imports of champagne rose 52% last year, but the market still remains largely untapped—only 0.05% of wine consumed in China is of the sparkling variety. Given China’s taste for wine, and the country’s longstanding tradition of cultivating its own grapes, champagne makers see it as a largely untapped market.

Just this past May, China officially recognized the Champagne appellation, thus ensuring that only sparkling wine from the Champagne region can be given the name in China. In a country where status and perceived luxury go a long way in selling all goods, but especially alcohol, a seal of exclusivity goes a long way. China also has a reputation for copycat goods, to which champagne is particularly susceptible; even in the US, some 50% of sparkling wine that isn’t from the region is sold as champagne.

Other rapidly growing markets include Nigeria, which saw champagne imports jump 27% last year; Japan, where they rose 14% despite its already being the world’s 5th largest consumer; and Denmark, where they rose 12%.

Global worldwide wine consumption is slated to increase by some 2 billion bottles by 2016. Champagne makers in France are hoping that much of it will be sparkling, and much of that will be from Champagne.