Jiles's Blog

Who Am I?

17 years spent living and working in Champagne has allowed Jiles to build up a vast amount of knowledge about all things bubbly as well as a very extensive network of contacts, especially amongst the smaller and less well-known champagne makers whose champagnes will probably amaze you with their quality and diversity.

A job as area manager for Asia and Australia with Moët et Chandon was what first drew Jiles to Champagne after completing an MBA in Luxury Brand Management at ESSEC, a prestigious business school just outside Paris.

After nearly 9 years at Moët Jiles moved back to the UK where he started one of the first online businesses promoting and selling grower champagnes,

However the draw of ‘The King of Wines and the Wine of Kings’ once again proved irresistible and another 8 year stay in Champagne was the result. During this second stay in Champagne Jiles worked with the Syndicat Général des Vignerons de Champagne as an accedited consultant for small, independent champagne makers before setting up his own consultancy.

Jiles now spends his time between England and Champagne.and puts his knowledge and contacts to work helping wine lovers everywhere learn more about champagne and helping businesses and individuals to create their own private champagne brand.

He is the author of two books on champagne, several concise guides to champagne  and is the creator of an online champagne study course called My Champagne Expert




Champagne Bulletin February 2022

A fundamental shift in strategy for Champagne?

There have been a lot of superlatives coming out of Champagne in the past few weeks which is welcome news for champagne producers. However, there’s always more to learn than meets the eye, so in this month’s Champagne Bulletin let’s look at some of the possible implications behind the headlines.

It’s quite a long and intricate story but if you read to the end, I think it will give you a very valuable insight into the champagne industry and what to expect in the years ahead.


An unexpected rebound in sales

By any measure, the recovery in sales of champagne after the most severe of the health restrictions were dropped, has been spectacular. Not only did the number of bottles shipped in 2021 jump back up to 322 million bottles from just 245 million in 2020 – that’s an increase of over 30% - it was up 8% over 2019 which was the last comparable year.

Total shipments

Even more remarkable was the fact that the value of champagne shipped in 2021 hit an all-time high of 5.7 billion euros

To make things even better, at least from the point of view of champagne makers, the average price per bottle also increased and did so by far more than one would expect simply as a result of the expected annual increases.

So, what’s going on and does this trend mark a fundamental shift in outlook on the part of the champagne industry as at least one commentator* has suggested?

To get a clearer view of the situation let’s first look at the relevant figures in more detail.

*Martin Cubertafond – consultant in food and wine distribution strategy at Sciences Po

Leading markets

The bulk of the increase was accounted for by shipments to export markets and in fact the results for the French market were just about static compared to 2019

The USA is now biggest market in volume after overtaking the UK in 2021. The USA had already taken the No. 1 spot for value a few years ago.

US Market

Having said this, the UK - former number 1 market for both volume and value- also saw a huge rebound and higher average prices in 2021

The upward trend continued in many other export markets, and it is obvious that the world still loves champagne despite the plethora of good sparkling wines available from elsewhere.

Other markets

At first sight, one might think that this resurgence in the number of bottles shipped would be the cause of unmitigated celebration all round, but that’s true only up to a point because it’s giving rise to a discussion that could shape the strategy of the champagne trade for many years to come.

It’s all to do with managing supply and demand and to understand this, we need to consider the background.

Supply and demand

Champagne is made in a limited geographical area which has the potential to produce somewhere in the region of 340 million bottles at maximum capacity. Here have been many discussions in the past about increasing the size of the appellation – the designated area in which Champagne can be produced and/or increasing the maximum allowed yield per hectare – but this is fraught with difficulties related to

Environment a) maintaining the high quality of the wine, on which the whole image of Champagne is founded, if new plantings on potentially inferior soils were permitted and

b) environmental concerns which tend to suggest that focusing on increased production might be detrimental to responsible management of the land.

One of the strengths of Champagne over many decades has been the systems that are in place to ensure that supply is kept in line with demand.

In good times, the authorised yield per hectare for each year’s harvest can be increased to boost production to satisfy growing consumer demand.

 Conversely, in periods of falling sales the authorised yield per hectare can be reduced to avoid excess stock building up in the cellars which, in turn, could lead to price discounting as stocks are sold off to provide cash flow.

Furthermore, behind the scenes in Champagne is the system of reserves which is the envy of other wine making regions. These reserves comprise stocks of still wine which are held in abeyance by each champagne maker only to be used, if authorised by the governing body, to make into champagne and thus overcome any temporary problems in the event of a particularly poor harvest.

Mistakes or just bad luck?

For many, many years these systems have worked extremely well to stabilise the champagne market, but the decisions (some would say, mistakes) made in 2020 and 2021 may yet bring about a major shift in the way champagne makers set their strategy. When I say ‘champagne makers’ I mean the big houses because, at least as regards sales, they set the tone and direction for everyone else to follow.

In early 2020 when the impact of the pandemic was beginning to be felt, many feared a catastrophic fall in champagne sales – down to just 200 million bottles according to the worst estimates - and the decision was taken to severely reduce the size of the authorised yield – the amount of grapes that could be harvested per hectare.

As it turned out the quality of the 2020 harvest was superb which left many champagne makers lamenting the fact that they weren’t allowed to pick all the grapes they would have wished and even the release of some of the famous ‘Reserve’ didn’t compensate adequately for this shortfall.

Sure enough, sales did decline, but not by as much as first feared, so stocks in the cellars remained at reasonable levels.

In the following year, 2021, the decision about the permitted size of the harvest was a difficult one for two reasons:

By mid-year there were very few signs of the rebound in sales that was to come in the second half of the year and in particularly in the last three months. Nevertheless, a decision about the size of the harvest had to be taken in late summer and taken without much visibility about how sales would recover.

Poor harvestIn hindsight, the limit was fixed too low, but in many areas of Champagne, this didn’t really matter because the weather in 2021 was so bad that the size of the harvest was pitiful.

The result was that stocks for many producers were left very low indeed at the end of 2021 and with sales going through the roof a new way had to be found to manage the situation.

This brings us back to the fact, noted above, that the average price per bottle of champagne went up significant in 2021

What next for prices and availability?

The conclusion that many people have come to is that the average price per bottle has increased because consumers are willing to pay a little more to get what they want, because they have gravitated towards slightly more expensive bottles and also because the limited supply at the end of 2021 meant that there were fewer discounted offers available – why discount a product if it’s in short supply?

This convergence of several factors is leading many players to shift from a strategy that focused on the demand for champagne and then tried to manage production in order to match the demand and consider instead a strategy of living with a stable supply and optimising the quality and price of that supply in such a way that demand falls in line with what the champagne house has to offer. Even if that demand is smaller or remains stable, the profitability of every bottle sold will be enhanced.

What’s the smart money doing?

If this plays out in the way outlined above, it’s likely that ex-cellar prices will increase at a faster rate than would otherwise be expected simply from annual inflation and this will inevitably feed through to consumer prices.

By the same token, this is likely to mean higher profits for established brands and for any emerging brand that can find its niche and a loyal following willing to pay the asking price for the brand they want.

What evidence is there that more and more champagne makers are adopting a more premium strategy?

Plenty if you look at some if the investments flowing into Champagne over the past couple of years:

  • In 2020 the Campari group acquired a majority share in Champagne Lallier with the stated aim of moving the brand up-market
  • In 2021 Rémy-Cointreau acquired a majority holding in Champagne J de Telmont

Both of these champagne houses were previously positioned as mid-range brands producing approximately 1 million bottles per year and both represented an opportunity for the buyer to gain a foothold in the champagne market. Neither purchaser would have made the acquisition if they did not see the chance to add value to the brand and increase profitability.

  • Since then, LVMH has taken a 50% share in Champagne Armand de Brignac

Brad PittMore recently other well-known names from both within and outside the world of wine, appear to be betting on the future of premium champagne

  • Leonardo di Caprio has also become an investor in Champagne de Telmont
  • Artémis Domaines, a company owned by the Pinaud family that also owns Château Latour in Bordeaux and Clos du Tart in Bourgogne to name just a few of their premium winery holdings, has just announced an investment in Champagne Jacquesson
  • Whilst Brad Pitt is a major shareholder in a project with Champagne Pierre Peters

This regular stream of high-profile investments in Champagne would suggest that the purchasers see opportunities to generate more profit and that generally means increased prices.

 In summary then, Champagne seems to be at a pivotal point that signals a change in direction and an even greater focus on premiumisation and a willingness to forego sales volume in favour of sales value.

What this will mean for consumers and for the thousands of smaller and less well-resourced champagne producers that have nevertheless  influenced the character of the land over many generations, remains to be seen with some of the consequences being predictable whilst others will be unexpected.

We’ll be looking at those in future Champagne Bulletins.


February 28th 2022



In this bulletin

  • Innovations in packaging and marketing
  • Crisis. What crisis?
  • The future of Champagne

Welcome to the first Champagne Bulletin of 2022 a year that will undoubtedly have its challenges, but one that will also present plenty of exciting opportunities.

This is a longer bulletin than normal. As we look back on the past year and look forward to 2022, this is a chance to consider the ever-relevant issues of supply, demand and prices that will characterise 2023 as indeed they do every other year.

However, before we do that, let’s get started by looking at a few of the innovations happening at the moment.


Blockchain technology has been around for some time now, so depending on how familiar you are with it you will either think that these latest marketing moves are well overdue or ahead of the curve.

Hennessy 8Whatever your view, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are making their first appearance in the world of wines & spirits.

Hennessy, the world’s largest brand of cognac, is amongst the first brands to venture into this new area of technology when it launched Hennessy 8 in association with BlockBar, the world’s first direct-to-consumer NFT platform for wine and spirits.

Hennessy 8 is an ultra-premium cognac of which only 250 carafes has been produced

According to The Drinks Business:

The price of purchase will be 58 ETH, a digital currency, or about US$226,450. The transaction is being handled by BlockBar, and details of purchase can be found at BlockBar.com. Potential buyers can access a digital lobby at 9:30 a.m. EST on Wednesday, January 12, providing they have 1 ETH in their wallet and have it connected to the site. At 10 a.m., all users in the lobby will be shuffled into random order, and then BlockBar will proceed through the queue until a buyer is confirmed.

Upon purchase, the cryptographic version will be held for the buyer by BlockBar with a record of authenticity held on the blockchain as a digital certificate of ownership. The buyer may claim the physical part of the transaction and have it delivered from BlockBar’s secure storage facility or trade its NFT version within the BlockBar.com marketplace. 

A few days later, on January 18th, another product launch took place: a collaboration between Blockbar and Penfolds of Australia.

You can find out more about these offers and about Blockbar on this link


I don’t yet know of a champagne house that has launched an offer involving NFTs but I suspect it won’t be long in coming. Meanwhile, other innovations are taking place in Champagne

LABELS - Simple is sometimes best

Lombard labelsSometimes, the best ideas are ones that have been staring you in the face for a long time and which are extremely simple to put into practice. Take the question of back labels and the problem that, all too often, mandatory texts take up so much room that there is no space left to tell consumers about your product.

Champagne Lombard has solved the problem by the simple expedient of a back label incorporating a mini brochure. The label peels back to reveal an extra two or three pages on which much more information can be provided about the wine, the Champagne region, or any other marketing message.

Effective though that may be, the idea of a printed back label is still very much a part of traditional technology. However, one house that has gone much further in adopting new technology is La Maison Penet, a family-owned producer of premium champagnes based in the village of Verzy.

Augmented reality

Very CoolLa Maison Penet is no stranger to innovation because, several years ago, it was the first wine company anywhere in the world to use QR codes on its labels. Now they have gone one step further by introducing augmented reality into the labels.

By downloading a free app called Smartbottle on to your mobile phone you can scan the label to bring to life a series of virtual images and sounds that tell you more about the champagne and La Maison Penet itself.

Here's a link to a short video that will show you more.


Golden Oldies

Another marketing idea that is far from new and which was made particularly famous by Roald Dahl in his book Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory' is that of a Golden Ticket.

Budweisser Gold CanBudweiser is reviving something similar in its most recent promotion.

A few golden cans have been included in cases of regular cans and a customer who finds one of the  golden cans is eligible to win a $1 million prize as part of its “Live Like a King” sweepstake.

There may be many people who feel that this particular promotional device may not be suitable for prestige champagne, but there are a few variations on this theme that could be. Email me if you’d like to chat about this.

But back to Champagne and what the coming year has in store…


An article in the Economic Observatory (link below) on this very topic comes to the following conclusion:

Analysis of data on the ups and downs of this iconic French industry over more than a century suggests that its future is likely to be brighter than was feared in the early months of Covid-19.

Well, I hate to say ‘ I told you so’ and of course there will certainly be many obstacles in future, but Champagne has known nothing but highs and lows throughout its history and sales have always rebounded after a crisis. In fact, I wrote a series of short articles about this a few years ago. You can still find them on my web site on this link 


But, back to 2022 and the Economic Observatory analysis.

Google trendsOverall, I don’t think it offers much that is really new, although it does introduce a new way to track global interest in champagne which is the number of searches for the word ‘champagne’ in Google. This mirrors very closely (or perhaps influences) sales of champagne.


More significant than this analysis is what is actually happening in Champagne right now.

A record year.

Champagne toastThe latest estimates indicate that when the figure for total champagne shipments in 2021 is confirmed soon, it will show that champagne significantly outperformed even the most optimistic expectations for the rebound after the last two years. In fact, total shipments (this figure includes exports and shipments to the domestic market in France) look as if they will end up at 320 million bottles, or even slightly more.

That could be the second best year on record (second only to the 338 million bottles shipped in 2007) and what’s more the total value of shipments last year looks likely to reach 5.8 billion euros – which would certainly be a new record.

So, to summarise it would seem that:

  • Champagne lost none of it appeal during the pandemic
  • People had a pent-up desire to celebrate. Some people continued drinking champagne at home because they had fewer opportunities to do so in bars and restaurants.
  • When the on-trade started opening up again people enthusiastically seized the chance to enjoy themselves again and champagne figured largely in those moments.
  • Established brands, especially prestige cuvees, benefited because in times of uncertainty consumers tend to gravitate towards brands that offer ‘sure value’ (at least as they perceive it).
  • Those people whose incomes had held up during the pandemic had fewer opportunities to spend it on things such as eating out and travel, so they had more disposable money to spend on luxury champagnes and took the opportunity to trade up.

Consequently, as we start a new year there is a widespread, but cautious, optimism in Champagne, although, in my experience, it is highly unlikely that the champenois would ever give way to unbridled enthusiasm, however rosy the future seemed.

Nevertheless, there are still some clouds on the horizon. I’ll touch on two in particular, one concerns champagne as a whole, the other concerns private brands more closely and we can address both these issues by reference to recent comments by the president of Union Champagne, one of the largest and most highly regarded of the cooperatives in Champagne.  

The president’s speech every January is seen by some as setting out the key issues for the industry in the coming year and this year he spoke about 1) the supply of grapes and 2) the objective of adding value to the cooperative’s own brand.


Harvesting above VerzenayLast year, against the background of collapsing sales, when the time came last year to fix the amount of grapes to be picked at harvest time, the limit of 8,000 kg per hectare was set, or put another way, enough to make just 230 million bottles of champagne, well below the benchmark of 300 million which is about what would be needed for a normal, healthy market.

The figure of 8,000 kg per hectare was subsequently revised upwards, but the underlying sentiment was one of caution and of the need to prevent over production in a falling market which would lead to excess stocks and consequently, falling prices.

In the event and as we have seen above, sales were hugely in excess of 230 million bottles, so it’s safe to say that the concern about over production did not materialise, in fact the opposite may now be the concern. Hence the call from the president of Union Champagne for a minimum of 11,000 kg to be set as the allowance for this year’s harvest. That’s approximately enough to produce 315-320 million bottles.

A crucial balancing act

The balance between the supply of grapes and the sale of bottles is a crucial one in Champagne. This issue is a hard enough task to manage in any industry, but because of the ageing time required in the production of champagne, it’s even harder: you’re faced with an irreversible decision about supply in year 1 when the demand will not be known until year 3 or 4.

If supply and demand are kept in rough balance, prices will be stable. If there’s more supply than demand prices will probably fall, and the opposite is true if demand exceeds supply.

Having emerged from 18 months of depressed sales with a spectacular and unexpected rebound in 2021, it seems likely that prices will be firming up in 2022.

Adding value

Union ChampagneThere was another comment in the speech at the AGM of Union Champagne that warrants closer attention, especially from those of my readers who have already embarked on the creation of a private brand or may be considering doing so, not least because this comment gives us an insight into how many other champagne makers will be thinking in 2022 and beyond.

Union Champagne is a large cooperative producing about 10 million bottles each year. Amongst their customers they count Tesco, the U.K.s largest supermarket chain, to whom Union Champagne probably supply several hundred thousand bottles, all under Tesco’s own brand name.

However, their ‘Jewel in the Crown’ is their own brand, Champagne de Saint Gall and it is on this brand that Union Champagne wants to focus, by increasing sales in export markets and by increasing the average selling price per bottle. To achieve these objectives Union Champagne stated that they will continue to reduce the proportion of sales to private labels, to increase prices and give precedence to their best customers.

What does that mean for the private brand business?

The larger champagne producers and particularly those who already have a reputation for the quality of their champagnes, will be very selective about who they work with on private brand projects, if they will agree to do so at all.

To achieve agreement with this category of supplier it will be important to have good pitch that shows solid reasons why the project will succeed such as past experience, existing and relevant skills, access to market and other resources.

Private brand projects that target a premium retail price positioning will be more favourably regarded than entry level projects.

There will still be opportunities for projects that target a mid-range retail price for which the quality of the champagne needs to be good but perhaps not outstanding. There are a multitude of lesser-known champagne makers that offer sound quality and sufficient production capacity to satisfy most sales ambitions.

Prices will be firm and, with associated costs for transport and for the raw materials needed for packaging all still on the increase, it will be all the more important do the financial groundwork at the start of any new project.


That’s all for this month’s champagne bulletin but if you’d like to discuss in more detail any of the topics raised, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I’ll respond as soon as possible.

All the best from Champagne



In this month’s bulletin…

Champagne bouncing back and the implications good and bad.

Toasting glassesWell, as 2021 draws to a close it’s certainly been a roller-coaster year for champagne and the twists and turns aren’t over yet.

From pervasive doom, gloom and apprehension at the start of the year to soaring demand and bursting order books towards the end of the year and talk of shortages and price rises.

So, what exactly is going on in Champagne?

 Just to put things in context, this time last year some voices in Champagne were predicting a disastrous drop in sales of 100 million bottles – that’s about 33% of a normal year’s sales. In response, the quantity of grapes that was authorised to by picked at harvest time was sharply reduced in an effort to avoid over supply and ballooning stocks of unsold bottles sitting in the cellars and costing money.

October shipmentsIn the event, things didn’t turn out as badly as some had predicted. Annual sales in 2020 dropped by just 18% or 50 million bottles– actually in Champagne people talk in terms of ‘shipments’ out of the cellars rather than ‘sales’ which are considered to take place further down the supply chain at retail level.The situation continued to improve throughout 2021 with shipments recovering as each month went by. At the end of October cumulative shipments this year were up 36.5 % compared to 2020 and up 8.5% versus 2019 (the last ‘normal’ year) with exports hitting record highs.

Barring any disasters in the next few weeks, it looks very likely that annual shipments will have recovered to the 2019 level of 300 million bottles, or even slightly more, by the end of the year.  Not surprisingly therefore there are many relieved and happy faces in Champagne at the moment.

However, we’re not out of the woods yet.

Ever popular

Since pandemic restrictions started to be eased from mid 2021 onwards there has been an amazing rebound in orders. If this demonstrates one thing it’s that champagne has lost none of its appeal and one might even say that the pent up desire to start living normally again that has been felt around the world has brought with it a desire to really celebrate life and what better to do that than with champagne. Orders are rushing in from almost every part of the globe and one could even say that champagnes image and appeal is stronger than ever. It all sounds great doesn’t it but there’s a downside.

Higher prices

As mentioned above, the size of he 2020 harvest was deliberately reduced to react to the fall in demand. In hindsight, one might say that it was reduced too severely. With the ever-more obvious signs of recovery this year, the size of the 2021 harvest was set at a much higher level, but with the worst possible timing, Mother Nature threw a spanner in the works with a series of near disasters such as frost, hail, storms, and diseases in the vineyard which ruined a large part of the hoped for and much needed crop.

That makes two years of small harvests and although there is a wonderful system of reserves in Champagne that will compensate, to some degree, for this shortfall, in the short term there is an excess of demand over supply which inevitably will lead to prices increases.

Premiumisation (if such a word exists)

In parallel to the upward pressure on prices, particularly at retail level, due to the supply/demand equation being out of balance, the (logical) response of many champagne houses has done nothing to reverse the trend; in fact, it has accelerated it.

Faced with fewer grapes than needed and hence fewer bottles to sell, many houses, especially the better-known brands, took the decision to scale back their release of standard non-vintage champagne and to use more of the available grapes to produce higher prices prestige cuvées. Due to the long ageing time needed for these cuvées, they won’t hit the market for some years yet, but the reduced quantity of non-vintage champagne is already having repercussions in the market.

We can see this is reports from the U.K and the USA, the two biggest markets by volume and value.

DealsOn the one hand, established brands are announcing strong demand, booming sales and buoyant prices. On the other hand, the usual year-end cut-price deals on entry level champagnes and supermarket brands may be about to dry up. After all, if there is a shortage of supply, why offer any discounts?

At least this has been the general feeling of many in the champagne trade and they suspected that offers like the one shown in this picture would be a rarity, at least in the short term. However, at the time of writing this bulletin most supermarkets in the UK and France are still promoting champagne offers, albeit not quite so generous as in past years.

Nevertheless, the predictions amongst the champagne community is that the trend towards higher prices and fewer discounts will continue. In fact, it’s what the established brands have been wanting for many years: the pandemic and the two consecutive small harvests have merely provided the means to drive this message home.

They have always pursued a policy of ever-increasing quality, value and price and they lamented the (over?) availability of entry level offers that do little to enhance the image of champagne and certainly don’t maximize the overall value of the champagne sector.

How to respond, particularly if you are considering launching a private brand?

It seems to be more important than ever for any brand seeking to get a foothold in the market to identify what special features set it apart from the competition. A low price is not enough. Competing on price with the Walmart’s, Costco’s and Aldi’s of this world doesn’t seem to be a strategy that has much future – if it ever did.

What then might be alternative strategies? The possibilities are much the same as they always have been.

Brand recognition

BOOBAOne obvious avenue that offers the prospect of rapid brand recognition, distribution and sales is to involve a well-known celebrity, if you aren’t already a celebrity yourself.

This is why personalities such as Idris Elba, Jay Z, Brad Pitt and many others have launched their own champagne brand and the appeal of champagne for famous people, as both a fun project and a profit-making enterprise, shows no sign of waning.

A famous French rapper artist by the name of Booba recently announced that he is working on a champagne project, and I’ve heard from a reliable source that a famous Hollywood actress is also planning to do the same next Spring.

All these people already have a crowd of loyal fans who follow them on social media and in person and who are potential customers. Of course, you don’t have to be a global or even national celebrity figure to have a network of good contacts, there are many other fields of activity you can be involved in that could be the source of sales as long as you are a trusted figure with some sort of following – the bigger the following, the better of course.


Another key to success is distribution. No matter how high the quality of your product, if you can’t get it to consumers, where they want it, when they want it, your sales are going to struggle.

If you have a means of warehousing and delivery and ideally plenty of strong contacts in hospitality venues, they too can provide a key source of competitive advantage.


HabillageLast but certainly not least of course, is the champagne and the bottle – lets call that, the presentation.

There are champagnes at almost every level of quality that can be sourced for private brands, although the higher the quality, the more limited the availability and, often, the higher the price.

 The choice of quality will depend, amongst other things, on the requirements of your target customers. Are they, to take one example, serious wine connoisseurs who will deliberate long and hard on what they taste in their glass, or are they more casual drinkers who pay little attention to what’s in their glass as log as it is pleasant?

 As for the bottle and packaging, there is an almost infinite variety of ways in which you can make your bottle look stunning. Some of these effects can be achieved quite quickly – multi-coloured sleeves around the bottle, for example, while others such as virtual reality brand presentations incorporated into the labels, take more time and a little more investment. I’d be happy to run through some of the options on a Zoom call if you’d like to explore any of these topics in more depth.

This will be the last Champagne Bulletin for 2021. Come the end of December, I plan to be more involved with drinking champagne than writing about it.

Thanks for reading my bulletins this year; I hope you’ll come back next year and, in the meantime, I wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas and New Year holiday, wherever and however you spend it.

All the best from Champagne


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Champagne Bulletin October 2021

In this month’s Champagne Bulletin

  • New brands on the market – some interesting innovations.
  • What retail price is right for your brand? – a few examples to refer to.
  • Champagne is just as popular as ever - Champagne sales on track to reach 300 million bottles again.
  • Champagne Day – did you miss it?


  • New brands on the market – some interesting innovations.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed the flood of celebrities who have launched their own wines and spirits brands over the past few years and some of them have ventured into the world of champagne.

The latest to do so is a French rap artist called Booba. He’s a big name in France and has already launched his own brand of clothing, a radio and TV channel and a brand of whisky, so with the following he has, his new champagne will probably be a big success too.

Not much is known about the project apart from the fact that he will be working with a champagne supplier that has also been making something of a name for itself over the past few years thanks to the quality of their champagnes.  You may not have heard of this company but that need not be a concern: for any of you considering creating your own brand, the good news is that I already work with the chef de cave (head wine maker) at this same champagne maker who I’ve known for over 20 years, so his expertise could one day be at your disposal too.

To find out more, please send me an email and we can discuss your project in more detail.

HooxahMeanwhile another new brand is attracting a number of articles and a lot of attention. It’s called Hoxxoh (no, don’t ask me how to pronounce that; I have no idea) and it is certainly eye-catching.

The bottles are florescent when in the right lighting, each bottle of the white version comes with 6 leaves of edible 24 carat gold,Hoxxoh and a small 0.45 carat ruby is embedded in the label of each bottle of the rosé.

The brand was actually launched last year and is apparently enjoying some success in the on-trade, especially in Italy despitE (or perhaps because of) the price: €250 for the white and €310 for the rosé.

The champagne is made by a small producer rather than a large existing brand or cooperative, so that would normally imply that production capacity is limited but the company is currently looking for investors, so they clearly have ambitions to grow considerably.

What retail price is right for your brand?

It’s a question that’s really important for anyone considering creating their own brand of champagne and I wish that there was a simple formula that allowed you to come up with the right answer every time, but it’s not as simple as that.

Let’s look at some of the factors to take into consideration and some examples from the market.

A useful way to do this is to take a look at the results of a competition recently held in the U.K. to choose the best champagnes of 2021


Best Champagnes 2021What is of interest is not so much the names of the brands but rather the information that is given about each of them, in particular the retail price. The prices are the those in the U.K. so they are not directly comparable to prices in other markets but the positioning relatively to one another is relevant, as are the price categories that emerge.

You’ll see that there are, broadly speaking, 3 price bands

1) £35-£50

Accessible: for a wide audience with  relatively low wine knowledge; frequent use, celebrations

2) £60 - £90

 Special cuvees and vintage champagnes for more discerning drinkers. Usually, lower volumes than less expensive brands.

3) £100 > as high as you like

 Ultra-premium brands whose prices have no real reference point and cannot be rationalised logically – this is the classic characteristic of a luxury brand. (see New Brands below)

Convenient though it would be if there were a reliable formula that could be used to determine the retail price, alas no such formula exists. And besides, the market conditions as well as the rate of tax and the structural costs of doing business vary from country to country.

Having said this, a rule of thumb that has traditionally been used as a guideline in the USA is that the retail price is between 3 and 4 times the cost price in France. This takes into account the margin requirements of importers, distributors and retailers at each stage of the chain, but the real factors determining where you set your retail price are much more complex and include

  • the price of competing brands already in the market
  • the expectations of the consumers you are targeting
  • the distinctive features of your own brand and of course
  • the cost price and the projected profit margins of your brand

For a more in-depth exploration of this topic, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Having said all that however, just a few words about wine competitions and tasting panels in general…

The judges who taste and evaluate the wines are no doubt all very expert and knowledgeable and the champagnes they rate highly are clearly well made and of high quality, but the questions I always ask about this sort of ranking system are

How many champagnes in total were judged and by extension, how many champagnes did not even enter the competition?

All that a list such as the one we’re going to look at, can do is to give you a snapshot of a small cross section of the market. There are always going to be fantastic champagnes available that were not even entered into the competition

Champagne is just as popular as ever

2021The last ‘normal’ year for champagne sales was 2019 when annual shipments reached just 297 million bottles. That’s still a lot of bottles but it was a disappointing result for the champagne industry which had seen shipments decline steadily over the preceding 10 years from a total of 320 million bottles.

The 300 million bottle target represents a powerful psychological benchmark in Champagne and the failure to achieve this, coming on top of a decade-long decline in shipments was worrying to say the least. Had champagne lost its sparkle? Would Prosecco take over the mantel of champagne?

2020 was a disaster all round and there was not much serious insight to be gained from the 244 million bottles shipped last year – in fact that was much better than some had feared at the start of 2020 – so you can imagine the optimism and anticipation that has gripped champagne over the past few months that have seen a remarkable bounce back across the board with, whisper it quietly, the heads of some major houses saying that shipments could hit the 300 million mark once again in 2021.

It doesn’t look as though any other sparkling wine is going to knock champagne off its perch any time soon.

  • Champagne Day – did you miss it?

Champagne DayYou may not have noticed it, but October 22nd was Global Champagne Day. In fact, this date has been GCD ever since the initiative was started about 10 years ago.

It’s a virtual event that takes place entirely on-line over many platforms, and is designed to create a sense of community amongst champagne lovers around the world and it’s also an excuse, if one were needed, to open a bottle or two.

If you missed GCD this year, don’t worry, there are only some 355 days until the next one comes around. Start planning and practicing now!


That's all for this month's bulletin and if you have any comments or questions, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Champagne Bulletin September 2021

In this month’s Champagne Bulletin

  • Could the worst harvest in 60 years yet turn out to be one of the best?
  • Changes to the US 3-tier system?
  • Increasing costs and longer lead times

You wonlt be surprised that the main news from September is all about the harvest and most of it is bad, but could the worst harvest in 60 years yet turn out to be one of the best?

At first sight that question may sound ridiculous, but it may not be as far-fetched as it seems. Let’s find out why.

As you will have gathered from my previous bulletins, the weather this year has been nothing short of dreadful:

  • frost in Spring that destroyed as much as 30% of the young buds, and in some places destroyed almost the entire future crop.
  • violent storms in Summer with deluges of rain and hail too that battered the vines causing further losses.
  • and then a multiplicity of diseases such as mildew, oidium and grey rot which ruined another 30% or so of the grapes.

 All in all, a combination of conditions not seen in decades. In fact, not since the 1950s according to the Comité Champagne.

All this meant one thing for sure: it would be a very small harvest and that’s the way it turned out – one of the 5 smallest harvests for half a century.

Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what some vines looked like just before picking started – not a pretty sight

Chardonnay in bad condition Sept 2021

   ChardonnayMore bad Chardonnay 





So how could such a disappointing harvest be seen as anything but a total disaster?

The answer is partly because the crop wasn’t bad everywhere and because, contrary to what you may have heard in other contexts, size isn’t all that matters.

We can get a clue as to why this should be when we take a look at something that, at first sight, might seem totally unconnected: the start dates for the harvest.

2021 harvest datesPicking doesn’t start on a specific date across the entire Champagne region. Instead, each village - and there are some 320 of these in Champagne - is given a start date based on the development of the grapes in each local area and there is also a start date given for each grape variety. You will immediately begin to appreciate that, despite the fact that many champagne drinkers think that all champagne is pretty much the same, that’s not really the case.

The Champagne region covers some 34,000 hectares (about 85,000 acres). Over 100 kilometres separates the most northerly part of the region from the southernmost areas. So, you won’t be too surprised to learn that this diversity means that the quality and quantity of the grapes can vary significantly from one place to another and even from one plot of vines to another.

The worst losses were in the southern part of Champagne in what is called the Aube region, and in the Vallée de la Marne where the weeks of unrelenting wet weather and the heavier soil in the valley made the vineyards almost unworkable.

Pinot Noir in good condition Sept 2021On the other hand, some villages nearer to Reims such as Ambonnay and Bouzy, both famed for their Pinot Noir grapes, were relatively untouched by the problems elsewhere and brought in a big harvest of grapes in excellent condition.

Some villages in La Côte des Blancs where Chardonnay is the dominant grape also reported good yields.

Quality versus quantity

Of course, every vine grower wants to have an abundant harvest but when it comes to making champagne the quality of the juice in the grapes is just as important, if not more so and one key measure of quality is the balance between sugar and acidity in the grapes.

As the grapes ripen, the sugar content rises, but the acidity level usually decreases as well. The sugar will be converted into alcohol during fermentation but too much sugar makes the wine heavy and unattractive. A good level of acidity is also essential to give champagne its liveliness and zing.

It’s quite rare that you get the ideal balance between the two extremes of sugar and acidity, but the first analysis of this year’s harvest indicates that the saving grace of 2021 is that the sugar/acidity balance is almost perfect.

Some people are saying that it resembles the great vintages of 2012 and 1996. If that is the case, and we won’t know for several months yet how the wine will turn out, 2021 promises to be a really good quality vintage… there will just be less of it that you might have wished for.

Changes to the 3-tier system in the USA?

Every country in the world has its own system of regulations surrounding the import and sale of alcohol, but the system in the USA is particularly complex.

Traditionally, a bottle of imported wine has had to pass through three separate entities before reaching the final consumer: an importer, a distributor, and a retailer. There are historical reasons for this not least of which was to prevent vertical integration of the industry, but it does make for a complicated process, and some say, for higher prices and a reduced choice for the consumer.

However, this may be about to change because in July President Biden instructed the Treasury Secretary, Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission to assess threats to competition and barriers to entry across a range of industries including the beer, wines and spirits sector.

It’s too soon to know what will come of this review, but the point that is important to grasp, especially for anyone considering launching a new brand in the USA, is that it is vital to understand the distribution system and all the legislation surrounding it. Distribution can mean the difference between success and disappointment in the wines and spirits business and it’s a subject that cannot be ignored.

Lead times and costs

Those readers who have already contacted me about a private brand of champagne will have heard me say that lead times for orders are currently running considerably in excess of what they were just a year ago. The reason, of course, is the plethora of measures that governments have put in place in the name of health.

The normal patterns of trade in almost every industry have been disrupted and champagne is no exception. In fact, the problem is not so much that the champagne itself is in short supply, but rather that the necessary raw materials for packaging are harder to get hold of.

Foil samples blackFor example, supplies of aluminium for making foils are harder to come by and the same is true of paper to make labels and boxes. Lead times that would have been two months a year ago are now running to three, or even four months at the moment.

Prices for packaging are also edging upwards, but fortunately they still represent a relatively small portion of the total costs associated with creating a champagne brand. I have not yet seen any significant movement in the price of champagne ex cellars, but I’ll be keeping an eye on this is the months ahead.


That brings us to the end of this month’s Champagne Bulletin. Look out for the October bulletin in a few weeks’ time and meanwhile, if you have any questions or comments about what you’ve just read, please feel free to email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

All the best from Champagne