BottlesThe disruption to supply chains caused primarily by government policies in recent years in response to energy and health-related issues, is not showing any sign of improvement, if anything the situation is getting worse.

The latest problems relate to the supply of glass bottles which are a fundamental requirement for wine makers all over the world and France is no exception.

The issue is at the forefront of winemakers’ minds at the moment because this is the time of year when many wine makers are bottling the wine from the 2022 vintage.

According to a report in The Drinks Business, the problem started when many furnaces were forced to reduce production levels during the CVD episode. Today the problem is different but no less severe. It is caused by rocketing energy prices which, according to the report, have gone up by as much as four times over the past couple of years with the result that glass makers have again scaled back production.

Some bottles are no longer being made and others are in very short supply- clear glass for example.

For some types of wine there are alternatives such as cans and, in some cases, paper cartons, but these options are not possible for champagne because of the pressure that the bottles need to withstand and also because of the prestige presentation that consumers expect from a bottle of champagne.

It is not yet clear when and how these supply constraints will ease but ease they must if supply is to keep up with the buoyant demand from around the world.


The principles of supply and demand are well-known and widely accepted: roughly speaking if supply goes up and demand remains stable, the price will fall. Conversely, if demand goes up and supply remains the same, the price must increase.

To put today’s situation into context it’s interesting to take a look at some data about how these two parameters have evolved in Champagne over the past half century or so. First let’s examine the supply as represented by the area planted with vines in the Appellation Champagne.

According to statistics from the Comité Champagne, back in the 1950s there were only some 12,000 hectares planted with vines. For the next 60 years or so the area under vine has been on a constant and rapid upward trend reaching 30,000 + hectares around 2010: an increase of almost three times.

Since 2010 there has been very little change because we are almost at the limit of the total 34,200 hectares authorised in the appellation - a total which is more theoretical than attainable since there are always a significant number of hectares lying fallow for a year or two to allow the soil to recover after old vines have been uprooted.

Area Planted in AOC

In this context one might expect the price of champagne to have fallen in the same proportion as the increase in supply, but other factors are at play; although the area under cultivation has increased, the yield in terms of the quantity of grapes harvested ( called the rendement) has not followed the same pattern.

As the chart below shows, there was approximately a threefold increase in the rendement between 1950 and about 2010, but from then to the present day the rendement has decreased.

The brown line shows the yield each year and the black line shows the 10 year average



The recent decrease is due to a number of factors amongst which are an awareness that preserving the health of the soil is not compatible with ever-increasing yields, and a greater focus on the quality of the grapes rather than solely on the quantity. These considerations have led to a deliberate reduction in the amount of fertilizer used resulting in fewer grapes per square metre and a reduced weight per bunch.

This then, is a second factor at play in the supply side of the equation. Let’s now look at demand.

In this chart you can’t see the exact numbers involved but the inexorable increase in sales is obvious despite the occasional blip along the way. (source: Comité Champagne)


Champagne shipments

Sales in 1947 were just 21.5 million bottles

By 1956 they had more than doubled to 44 million

By 1967 they had doubled again to 93 million bottles and from then on things really took off

100 million bottles by 1970

200 million bottles in 1986

300 million in 1999 and since then sales have settled at around 310 million bottles + in years that are not disrupted by one crisis or another.

I’ll leave you to do the maths, but that’s a pretty impressive percentage increase – far greater than the increase in supply -  and it’s fairly constant over the long-term making champagne a very attractive business to be in.

To summarise, demand has more than kept pace with the increase in supply and over the past two years the strength of that demand has increased yet again with the inevitable result that prices are firming up considerably as is evidenced by the fact that the total ex cellars value of sales exceeded 6 billion euros for the first time in 2022 – of course, at consumer level the figure is much higher still.

Added to this is the fact that the area of the Appellation Champagne is limited and even if a decision is taken one day to increase the area, that increase is unlikely to be very substantial, so the argument for higher prices for champagne continues to look very persuasive.


Champagne drinkingExport sales are the driving force behind the increase in demand for champagne in recent years.

It was the case for many years that the French drank more champagne per year than the rest of the world put together – exports accounted for less than half total sales.

That situation reversed about a decade ago and since then a combination of factors has made the divide between domestic sales in France and exports all the more significant.

An increasing concern about alcohol abuse led to severe restrictions in France on advertising and promoting alcohol, and a decline in young people drinking wine has also had an impact.

Many voices complained that champagne has an old-fashioned image and was consumed mainly by older people. Whilst this may still be true statistically, a number of initiatives have been put in place to make champagne a drink to be enjoyed by a much wider audience both geographically and in terms of age group.

This, coupled with  the increasing prosperity in many developing countries and the rise of a middle class with discretionary income and a desire to enjoy what they perceive as some of the luxuries of life, is what is driving the boom in export sales.

The first shipment figures for 2023 only confirm this trend. For the 12 month period up to January 2023 sales were buoyant at 327 million bottles with the majority of these being in export markets whilst in France sales were down 2% versus last year.

Looked at overall, the champagne story today seems to be repeating what has occurred over the past 70 years. It’s a story of inexorable growth punctuated by repeated crises which only goes to demonstrate the extraordinary resilience and appeal of champagne.

That's a thought worth raising a glass to - champagne of course.

Until next month