By Paul Wootton, reporting from Düsseldorf
After massive volume growth of 134 per cent over the past decade, Australian sales of Champagne fell last year by 1.8 per cent to 8.4 million bottles, due in part to a less favourable exchange rate. The figures were revealed at the annual press conference of the Comité Champagne, which took place at ProWein in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Globally, Champagne volumes were also down last year (-1.8 per cent to 301.9 million bottles), with France and the UK, which account for 60 per cent of total sales, responsible for most of this decline: their respective volumes were down four per cent.
However, overall exports are on an upward trajectory (+0.6 per cent in volume and +1.8 per cent in revenue) and despite total volume falling, last year’s total turnover for Champagne set a new record of close to €4.9 billion (+0.3 per cent compared with 2017).
Demand is most dynamic beyond the European Union, particularly in markets further afield such as the USA (23.7 million bottles, +2.7 per cent), Japan (13.6 million bottles, +5.5 per cent) and the Chinese triangle (mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan: 4.7 million bottles, +9.1 per cent).
There’s also been significant growth in Canada with 2.3 million bottles sold (+4.8 per cent), Mexico with 1.7 million bottles (+4.3 per cent) and South Africa, where sales have topped the million-bottle mark for the very first time, recording remarkable growth of 38.4 per cent.
The Comité, the trade body that represents the interests of Champagne producers, said the 2018 results validated the value creation strategy of the Champagne region, “based on a continual pursuit of exceptional quality and rigorous environmental targets”.
With Australian Champagne sales down 6.4 per cent in value, Comité co-president Jean-Marie Barillère couldn’t be confident that 2019 would see a return to the incredible growth of recent years. “I don’t know because the increase in volume of Champagne in Australia has been tremendous over the last 10 years,” he told TheShout. “Now maybe we’ll have some consolidation. But when you consider the population of Australia, we’re not doing too badly.”
Australia remains Champagne’s sixth largest export market by volume.
The annual press conference also provides the Comité with an opportunity to discuss the latest harvest. “From an agronomic point of view,” the Comité said, “2018 was an unprecendented year with a bumper harvest of outstanding quality, boding extremely well for the future Champagne cuvées.”