Champagne popping out of Covid-19 – Liz Palmer’s Presentation – Sparkling WINE Week July 1 2020

Sparkling WINE Week – July 1st 2020
Champagne Post COVID –
Session 3 – 15.30 – 16.00 Seminar: Champagne popping out of COVID-19  – Sparkling WINE Week Liz Palmer, Key Note Speaker

 Champagne Popping Out Of Covid-19

 Remember …only sparkling wine, from the Champagne region of France, can be called “Champagne”.

Brief Overview Of The Region

Location: the Champagne Region is located in the Northeastern part of France, about 1h30 from Paris by car and 45 minutes by TGV (high-speed train).

 Districts: The viticultural boundaries of Champagne are legally defined and split into 5 wine-producing districts: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The towns of Reims and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area. Reims is famous for its cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims – this was previously used for the coronation of the French Kings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Grapes: Three grapes are mainly used – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier.

Other approved varietals include: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane, and Petit Meslier

  • These together are less than 0.3% of plantings.

31% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay which performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk-slopes south of Epernay. Chardonnay produces lighter, fresher wines and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape used in Blancs de Blancs.  Note:  No other authorized white grapes, i.e., Pinot Blanc, Arbane, Petit-Meslier and Pinot Gris can be used in making a Blancs de Blancs.

Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 38% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends – it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and in the Aube district.

The final varietal is Meunier which accounts for nearly 31% of the plantings. This varietal is durable and resistant to spring frosts – found in Marne Valley. It produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks aging potential, but this does not deter Krug from including 15% of it in their final blends.

Champagne is a collective of over 16,000 growers and 340 houses. The region as a whole has put a proactive focus on climate change and sustainability since 2003 it was the first in the world to produce a carbon footprint assessment and identify the main sources of emissions in their systems. Based on learnings from the assessment, the region rolled out a plan to cut emissions by 75% by 2050. A nearer-term goal ensures that 100% of the area holds an environmental certification by 2030. (As of 2019, about a fifth of the region held a certification.)

Champagne Shipments

The latest shipment figures are attached [as at April 20, 2020] « too early to tell the effects » since 50% of the shipments occur between September – December 2019, the next figures are expected to be announced around the 10th/15th of July – so watch for this – usually published in French.

Going back to 2019 – Champagne reached its highest ever turnover, breaking the €5 billion mark for the first time in its history, while the start of this year was also very strong in terms of sales of the sparkling wine. The beginning of 2020 was good in terms of consumption – and now it’s a different story.

2020 Pandemic 

With gatherings over the past three months across large parts of Europe, and around the world, canceled or postponed, and bars and restaurants closed, it should come as little surprise that Champagne sales would be seriously affected, especially as the nation’s worst-hit by the pandemic are some of Champagne’s biggest markets: France, Italy, Spain, and the USA.

As a whole, the Champagne region immediately reacted when the W.H.O. declared a global health emergency with the coronavirus pandemic [January 30, 2020].  France announced the first coronavirus death in Europe [February 14, 2020].

What Initial Steps Were Taken? 

  • Adapted general safety measures in the vineyards and cellars, and made the continuation of the work possible.
  • established guidelines for « mating confusion » which usually is done by hand in large groups (the whole village at once).

What is mating confusion:  This technique is based on a natural insect (scent or aroma) pheromone which confuses a male butterfly into not mating with the female. If the insects don’t breed, they aren’t a threat to the vines – this is called sexual confusion.

Mating confusion was postponed a few times and eventually suspended and did not take place in many villages. Typically, the growers would rather take the risk to lose a percentage of their grapes to the insects, than giving up on a « biocontrol  – which is a component of an integrated pest management strategy. It is defined as the reduction of pest populations by natural enemies.

[Note: Champagne is the leading European country, in terms of surface, when it comes to mating confusion and half of their surfaces are under mating confusion].

  • During this time, the Comite Champagne reminded the growers and houses, of the strategic orientations of the region: growth in value rather than in volume.
  • During the crisis, the Champagne Region interacted with the French government, to ensure that economic measures were in place to support the domaines and wineries.
  • The Presidents and executive board members of the houses have clearly communicated that Champagne expects a fall of shipments by 100 million bottles (i.e. minus 30% to minus 35%) over the year, resulting in a loss of turnover of 1,7 Bn€.
  • During the months of April and May, Champagne has managed to establish an “adaptation” of the collective system which is aimed at ensuring the survival of the houses and companies, such as:The 2020 harvest will be bottled in two parts:

the first part, as usual, January 1st 2021;

with the second part to be bottled as of January 1st 2022

(ensuring that there is a reasonable level of production in 2020 (in order to sustain domaines and all players, who depend on selling grapes). This avoids providing the markets with too much wine.).

[Note: Currently there are almost 4 years of shipments in stock (or 1,43 Bn bottles)]

  • The French government was solicited to reinforce the “Loi EGalim” or “**EGalim Law”] in the French off-trade, because it has had, in the past, positive effects on the Champagne market overall by limiting extreme discounts.

**[in long form this represents – law for the balance of trade relations in the agricultural and food sector and healthy, sustainable, and accessible food for all].

  • The EGalim Law set recent promotions as follows: 1 bottle offered for 3 purchased, as opposed to « buy one get one free ».

[Note: This call to the government is a positive sign on Champagne being firm on its value growth strategy.] 

Increased Digital Activities

  • The growers, houses and the Comite Champagne have all changed the way they communicate including increasing their social media activities.
  • recently launched Champagne education platform [Mook] champagne-mooc.com.

Classic Version

Course in English with subtitled videos

Access to 4 educational modules

The Champagne making process

The Champagne terroir

History and Economy of Champagne

Diversity and Tasting

Free

A N D 

Premium Version

Course in English with subtitled videos

Access to the 4 educational modules of the classic version

Additionnal contents:

Extra videos

Test your knowledge

Get the official Statement of completion

49€ (taxes included)

Strategy – Post-COVID

  • The main driver to rebuild a « desire for Champagne » is to collectively build the visibility of Champagne as a region that has invested in an eco-friendly production management [this is a number one concern for consumers 25-35 years in many key markets] and Champagne as the drink for celebrations, and special moments, but also the drink to make moments special — Champagne as a treat during hard times, a break within the rush, a comforting drink, for some.
  • And as Louis Roederer’s cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon states “We make something which is not essential but, at the same time, it is essential for pleasure and bringing people together. We make a wine for celebration, so we decided that, in difficult times, it is important to do what we do and try and make an even better wine for the future.”
  • Some brands, including the Union of Growers have organized charities to support medical teams in the region.
  • The environmental effort of the region (previously mentioned), for the last 20 years and with objectives set for 2025, 2030, 2050, these strategic fundamentals are long-term.

Harvest 2020 

  • There was initially a challenge to get seasonal workers for the upcoming harvest above at least 50% of the 120,000 required. With most coming from Eastern Europe, it’s both a challenge to determine how and when they can travel to France, and then to implement social distancing which anticipated for the end of August. This is no longer an issue as the UE will be reopening and students will be available.  The challenge remains to implement social distancing.
  • This is a manual and collective task that can cause incredible logistic challenges (transportation and meals).

Champagne Tourism

  • When it comes to tourism the region has adapted the government guidelines to reopen and the sites have just started to open.

France is Europe’s most-visited country, making tourism a key pillar of the economy.

  • Experts say it’s too early to evaluate the full effect of the COVID-19 crisis, but the European Commission is already calling for a new “Marshall Plan,” using EU funds, to save the tourism industry.
  • Once the lockdowns are fully over, and plans for a vaccine are in place, we will all want to celebrate – with Champagne of course!

Sources:

Comite Champagne
Thibaut Le Mailloux
Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon

 

 

Liz Palmer

liz@liz-palmer

www.liz-palmer.com

Millennials are vital to Champagne’s future  

“Millennials are vital to Champagne’s future… because they are willing to look beyond the ‘just for celebrations’ mantra,” states Françoise Peretti, Director of the UK’s Champagne Information Bureau.

Millennials are deemed to be more digitally connected and open-minded than baby boomers.

Peretti further stressed the need to attract a younger generation of drinkers, and the potential demand among “open-minded” millennials.

“Unlike the Baby Boomers, they are open-minded consumers, willing to look beyond the ‘just for celebrations’ mantra,” she said of the age group, which covers those people from their early 20s to late 30s.

“This is their most important attribute: a desire to embrace the idea that Champagne can be a drink for the weekend, not simply New Year.”

Mentzendorff’s Andrew Hawes, who is the current chairman of the Champagne Agents Association believes that grower Champagnes are the key to unlocking the millennial market.

Hawes states “A quiet revolution has been building in the independent sector over the past few years.”  He further adds, “Independents are selling more and more grower Champagne to millennials – they are naturally drawn to the ‘craft’ credentials of smaller brands.”

In the US, Chicago-based sommelier Zach Jones recorded a similar development, and he goes on to say,  “Grower Champagne has had a huge surge in popularity with younger drinkers in the US, because there is a great story to tell and it gives younger consumers the sense that they are supporting a small family winery, not a massive machine.”

Sources:
Drinks Ontario
Champagne Information Bureau – UK

Italy’s Campari Group to enter champagne sector with Lallier acquisition

The Campari Group is set to become the first Italian company to own a Champagne brand.  Announced last week, Campari has entered into negotiations to acquire French company Ficoma, to acquire 80% of the shares of Champagne Lallier, and other group companies, with a view to total ownership. Campari’s shares ended up 2.9% after the announcement, outperforming a 1.7% gain in Milan’s blue-chip index.FTMIB.

Ficoma sold one million bottles of Champagne in 2019, including 700,000 bottles of Lallier.

If the negotiations lead to a sale, it will mark the entry of the first Italian player into the Champagne category.

Ficoma is the family holding of Francis Tribaut, the heir to four generations of winemakers and Champagne producers in France’s Marne region. The Champagne brand Lallier was founded in 1906 in Aÿ, one of the few villages classified as ‘Grand Cru’ in Champagne.

The potential transaction scope includes the brands, related stocks, and real estate assets including owned and operated vineyards, and production facilities.

Campari Group, founded in 1860, is the sixth-largest player worldwide in the premium spirits industry, trading in more than 190 countries. Campari owns 21 plants worldwide and has its own distribution network in 21 countries.

The company’s growth strategy is to combine organic growth through strong brand building and external growth via selective acquisitions of brands and businesses.

The company has a portfolio of more than 50 premium and super-premium brands, including Aperol, Campari, SKYY, Grand Marnier, Wild Turkey and Appleton Estate.

Champagne Beau Joie announces a new partnership with fashion brand Marchesa

Champagne Beau Joie states this week that the partnership includes the release of 1,000 limited-edition “couture bottles”. The bottles, which are the first in the ‘Marchesa for Beau Joie’ series, will be hand-beaded and embroidered. They carry a price of US $599 per bottle.

The series will also include several new products that will be available through luxury retailers, hotels and high-end resorts, as well as through their website.

The bottles will be designed by Georgina Chapman, the creative director and co-founder of Marchesa, in collaboration with Brandis Deitelbaum, the founder of Beau Joie.

“Georgina and I were asking each other why there isn’t a Champagne brand that’s an extension of a fashion house, something for everyday occasions or served at special events. It’s such a natural fit, fashion and Champagne, yet nobody else has done this,” said Deitelbaum. “We both agreed there was a tremendous opportunity here for such a product, and so we decided to create it.”

Champagne Beau Joie website:

http://www.beaujoiechampagne.com/

Drake Launches 2008 Vintage Champagne

Having unveiled his first Mod Sélection Champagne in January this year, Canadian rapper Drake is now ending the year by launching two 2008 vintage expressions.  Priced at US $480 and US $550 a bottle respectively is Mod Sélection Réserve Vintage 2008, and Mod Sélection Rosé Vintage 2008.

Mod Sélection Réserve is a blend of 10% Pinot Noir, 55% Meunier and 35% Chardonnay. According to the producer Maison Pierre Mignon, this wine has aromas of “rich, ripe fruit” with flavours of “orange peel, dried apricot, pineapple, brioche, nutmeg and clove” on the palate.

Mod Sélection Rosé Vintage 2008  is made using the saignée method and is a blend of 10% Pinot Noir, 50% Meunier and 40% Chardonnay. According to the producer it’s described as having a “deep-salmon hue” with “concentrated and complex fresh red fruit on the palate” with honey, ginger and sweet spice.

Commenting on the launch, founder and CEO of Mod Sélection Champagne, Brent Hocking, said: The attention to detail in every aspect of our production process is what sets this Champagne apart from all other 2008 vintages the industry has seen this year.

“We have purposely waited to release these special blends to ensure optimum quality and purity – and we believe they’re worth the wait.”

These releases mark the third and fourth product launches from the brand, following the launch of the Mod Réserve Champagne (US$300) and a Mod Rosé Champagne (US$400) earlier this year.

The new vintage Champagnes will be packaged in the brand’s brown metallic bottles and adorned with bronze detailing, made by craftsman from the Champagne region.

Champagne brand Mod Sélection operates in partnership with Champagne Pierre Mignon, a family-owned Champagne house based in Le Breuil in the Vallée de la Marne. The house has 16 hectares of vines, located in the Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs, and Epernay.

Website: http://www.modselectionchampagne.com