After predicting last month that champagne shipments in 2021 will exceed 315m bottles, Jean-Marie Barillère, Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC) president, told the drinks business this week that shipments could actually be closer to the 320m bottle mark. If so, this would take the total near to the region’s second highest level this century, in a year that has seen a record turnover for the appellation.
“This is,” Barillère told the drinks business, “due to a strong performance in the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ countries: the UK, Canada, USA and Australia. Germany and Spain too, but the recovery has been weaker in Asian countries like Japan where the off-premise business is less developed.”
Continuing, he said, “Globally it’s a big surprise, clearly people were fed up with Covid and wanted to share good moments together again. The market in France recovered a little later around the start of July and was pretty strong through to the end of November.”
He added, “But the figures for the crucial month of December in France (with Covid restrictions tightened again) are not yet known. We won’t really know the answer until stock replenishment starts in January/February.”
As the table below (displaying total volume of shipments annually from 2021-1999) shows, the all-time high of 333.8m bottles shipped was achieved in 2007. Although the 2021 figures won’t reach that high, they may be close to, or even exceed, the 322.9m reached in 2011. Breakdown by country is not yet available for the entirety of 2021, but we do know that in the year to the end of October, shipments outside Europe were up 48.6% (equalling 31.9m extra bottles), while those to Europe were ahead 39.8% (+12.5m bottles). French domestic sales were also up, by no less than 23.2% (17.5m bottles).
Champagne Shortage in 2021
Champagne fanatics may recall (with horror!) that there was a shortage of champagne in some markets towards the latter months of 2021. Barillère explained that there was no actual shortage of stock, as there is the equivalent of four years’ supply in the cellars around Reims and Épernay. “The shortage (of available stock) was due to [the limits in] production capacity,” he commented.
Although, when asked if the total shipments could have been higher had the major houses prepared more bottles to meet the large increase in demand, Barillère explained that when the strength of demand was becoming clear, it was already too late to adjust the plans.
As the major houses struggled to keep up with supply in markets like the UK, there is certainly some evidence that the co-operatives benefitted and in the month of November their overall exports were up 77.1%. However, in the first 11 months of 2021 the 43.3% growth in exports by the co-ops is only marginally ahead of the 39.5% growth the houses achieved and their total exports soared to 143.2m bottles compared to the co-ops 11.9m (Jan-Nov 2021).
In his speech to the general assembly of the Association Viticole Champenoise (AVC) in December, Barillère said: “2021 will end with a record turnover for the appellation. Yes, we will exceed 315m bottles, yes, we will exceed €5.5bn turnover. It’s a nice gift for my last year of co-presidency of the inter-profession.”