Champagne fell flat last year, with sales tumbling as the COVID-19 pandemic forced drinking venues to close and celebratory events were put on ice, although some year-end cheer meant that the decline was less steep than initially forecast.
Producers' group CIVC has said that sales of bubbly dropped by 18% in 2020 by volume, which could lead to a €1 billion fall in value. It expects the pandemic to continue to weigh on demand in the first half of this year.
"It is a little better than we had thought," CIVC co-chairman Maxime Toubart told reporters. "Around the world, even if we are not allowed to party, there were still some events to celebrate, and champagne is a symbol of celebration."
Sales of the French sparkling wine suffered as countries closed restaurants and bars and banned hospitality events in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
France and key export outlets Britain and the United States each saw a 20% drop in champagne volume sales in 2020, while Japan, which is another major market, registered a steeper 28% decline, CIVC said.
Australia was a bright spot, with volumes exported there rising by 14%.
Total sales of champagne fell to 245 million bottles in 2020 from almost 300 million in 2019. In value terms, provisional estimates put 2020 sales at some €4 billion, CIVC said.
After initial lockdowns, the group had projected that annual sales volumes would fall by approximately a third and value sales by €1.7 billion.
In view of the better volumes than previously expected, CIVC said that producers have agreed to release 400 kilos per hectare of grapes from their reserves, to complement the 8,000 kg/ha harvested last year.
The year-end holiday period saw some pick-up in demand, CIVC said.
British supermarket retailers reported brisk demand for champagne and other festive specialities, while in France supermarket sales of champagne rose sharply, according to market analyst Nielsen.
Prospects Of A Rebound Later In The Year
The start of this year is likely to remain tough with restaurants and bars still closed and events on hold due to the pandemic, but there are prospects of a rebound later in the year if countries start easing restrictions, CIVC said.