A Champagne trade association has slammed supermarkets as ‘parasites’ affecting the image of the fine wine.
The Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) said cut price deals offered by supermarkets were simple marketing ploys that did not reflect the true value of Champagne. Thibaut le Mailloux, communications director, said that these offers made the consumer mistakenly think that Champagne could be made cheaply.
He said supermarkets were making a mistake by ‘downgrading’ the Champagne category and making buyers expect low prices, meaning that retailers and producers cannot make an acceptable and sustainable profit. Mr le Mailloux said that retailers should not be making Champagne as cheap as possible for buyers, but should be offering them a balance of offers.
Managing director Nick James, of Champagne Pol Roger, has seconded the statements. He said he hated that the product was being used by supermarkets as part of a ‘disgraceful’ ploy to get people into stores. Independent wine merchants are unable to do this, he added.
Paul Beavis, who is the managing director of one of Champagne’s oldest houses, Larson, said it was ‘a torrid time’ in December 2013 after the company’s Black Label Champagne was sold at half its usual price. Christmas 2013 saw Tesco and Asda selling exclusive label Champagne for £10 a bottle, which is less than half of its usual retail value. There were also cuts to the prices of branded labels, and a total of 71 per cent of the total volume exchanged hands for less than its normal price.
Supermarket practices mean that wine and Champagne delivery can also be made at the same time as a person’s usual weekly shop, and at no extra cost. This is something that most specialist merchants cannot do.
Call to build on success
Mr Beavis said that the Champagne industry must capitalise on the sales of Cava and Prosecco. These wines are experiencing a period of success and are showing continued growth, whilst Champagne sales are getting lower. He said consumers were choosing these varieties over ‘entry-level wine’ as they increasingly began to respect the quality of the products. The future looked positive in terms of growth for both varieties, he added.
Mentzendorff, a supplier of Bollinger, has asked for the CIVC to increase the promotion of Champagne, stating that it must be seen as better quality than its sparkling wine rivals and deserving of a higher price tag. Andrew Hawes, Mentendorff’s managing director, said that Champagne needed to be promoted using information about what makes it special compared to other varieties of sparkling wine, and the industry as a whole must do more to make this happen.
He said the focus should be on explaining such things as the Champagne method of production, which means that more than 300 million bottles are hand-made every year. He added that this should be the job of the CIVC. Mr Hawes said that those involved in the production, sale and promotion of Champagne should follow the lead set by English wine professionals, who have provided articulate information about their products.
Francoise Peretti, the UK director of CIVC, said that the association had already commissioned a Champagne 2030 study, aimed at ensuring the product’s future success.