Total shipments of Champagne in 2021 rose to 322 million bottles, an increase of 32% over 2020. The market in France was up by 25% at nearly 142 million bottles, a return to 2019 levels. Exports continued to rise to a new record of 180 million bottles. ‘This recovery is a welcome surprise for the people of Champagne after a troubled 2020 (with figures down by 18%) impacted by the closure of main points of consumption and the shortage of celebratory events across the world,’ comments Maxime Toubart, president of the Syndicat général des vignerons and co-president of the Comité Champagne. He is otherwise pleased to note ‘the healthy state of the national market’.
What about my sparkling wines? The sparkling wine category (including Champagne that suffered severe volume cutbacks in 2020) is a bright light in the total wine market. Spirits, fueled by pre-mixed cocktails, registered a marginal increase in 2021, while both beer and wine showed decreases. Some of those decreases can be attributed to strong competition in the early months of 2021 from the relatively new hard seltzer category. Champagne and other sparklers from outside that legendary appellation are a shining light in an otherwise flat and declining market. Sparkling wine demand increased rapidly in spring 2021 and continued throughout the year versus their drop in 2020. Reuters reported from Paris on Dec. 20 that Champagne sales have rebounded from the pandemic’s related troubles and are now about 10 percent by value ahead of their 2019 peak.
The growth in sparkling demand has proved an additional blessing to producers in other growing regions. In a Dec. 16 online post, Wine Business News indicated Spain’s Cava sales have increased 16.45 percent in the first nine months of 2021. Similar successes have been reported from Prosecco and elsewhere breathing new life into growers and producers large and small from their dismal 2020 experience.
I am certain you need not be reminded that Napa Valley sparkling wines are quite expensive. The range that I see on recommended sparkling wines from Napa start at $48 and go up to $140.
But in Jolly Olde England: In the U.K, consumers have embraced the wines, making English bubbles one of the best selling categories of sparkling wines in the country. Nobuko Okamura, chief sommelier at Pan Pacific Hotel in London, says consumers’ affinity for homegrown products led her to include a robust selection of English bubbles on her list. Since modern English wine is relatively new—the first Champagne varieties were planted in Sussex on the limestone-rich South Downs by Nyetimber in 1988—English producers have embraced collaboration to help improve their regional category as a whole. “I think that many of the English winemakers are collaborative,” says Holland. “We do share information, which sometimes may seem counterintuitive, but I think we all recognize that a rising tide lifts all boats, so we all want to be helping each other as it’s in the category’s interest to do that.”
So what is the future of California Sparkling wine? Will sales continue to grow, or will they flatten? Competition from Champagne and Prosecco is fierce, especially since both of these regions have large marketing associations that frequently reach out to wine buyers and consumers with compelling ads to purchase their wines.
The California sparkling wine industry, however, does not have a marketing association to represent its producers. In the past, this was because there were not that many bubble houses. But according to CaliforniaChampagne.com, there are now around 150 sparkling wine producers in California.
As you know, I am a big believer and consumer of crémant from Loire, their version of sparkling wine. My everyday sparkler is Aimery crémant brut rose’, about $14, and shipped free via WTSO. I suggest you sign up for their emails. WTSO stands for Wine Till Sold Out. You will not regret it.