Top-end US, Asian tipplers rescue champagne sales
By Pascale Denis
PARIS (Reuters) - Depressed by weak economies and the lingering shadow of a sovereign debt crisis, Europeans are struggling to find good reasons to crack open the bubbly.
The European gloom means that after two years of increases, producers will dispatch about 9 million fewer bottles of champagne worldwide in 2012, a 3 percent drop to around 314 million, industry estimates gathered by Reuters showed.
But more expensive tastes in export markets such as Japan, the United States and China mean champagne revenue as a whole will likely match or even pip the 4.1 billion euros ($5.4 billion) achieved last year.
"Despite the drop in volumes, champagne will still have one of the three or four best performances in history," said Bruno Paillard, chief executive of Lanson BCC, the world's second-biggest champagne group.
The market is dominated by luxury group LVMH, which owns the Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart and Krug brands. Specialist champagne-makers also include Laurent Perrier, Vranken and drinks group Pernod Ricard's Mumm and Perrier-Jouet brands.
Sales of champagne - which by definition can only be produced in the northern French region of the same name - peaked at 339 million bottles in 2007 for record industry revenue of 4.5 billion euros.
In France, the top sales market for champagne accounting for 52 percent of volumes, demand was down 5 percent by October with no sign of the trend improving.
"This year has been tough, with a fraught economic situation in France and Europe," said Thibaut Le Mailloux, spokesman for the Comite Interprofessionel des Vins de Champagne (CIVC) trade association, of the stagnant economy across most of the zone. Continued...