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





Welcome to the first Champagne Bulletin of 2023.

It probably won’t come as any surprise that January has been a relatively quiet month in Champagne, but nevertheless they are a couple of stories that have attracted considerable attention.

Rules and Regulations

CIVC PlaqueThose of you have already had a discussion with me about your champagne brand project will have heard me say that the rules and regulations surrounding champagne are much more strict than you might imagine.

For example, you can’t add any flavourings or colourings to champagne and that’s just one of many rules that have to be adhered to during grape growing, wine making and labelling. If they are not, then the wine cannot be called champagne, but there are sometimes more severe penalties as one unfortunate (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, unwise) champagne maker found out recently to his extreme detriment.

Frederic Gallois and his family have been tending vines and making champagne for many generations in a village in one of the more remote parts of the Champagne region. Perhaps M. Gallois thought that his out-of-the-way location would mean that he would be safe from the occasional inspection by the authorities. If so, he has recently been proved very wrong.

The suspicions of the authorities were aroused when it came to light that M. Gallois was harvesting grapes in his vineyards outside the dates that are officially permitted each year. This, in itself, could well have incurred a penalty, but things soon became worse – a lot worse

On closer inspection, it was found that some of M. Gallois’s vines were producing more than the permitted yield. It was then discovered that some of M. Gallois vineyards had been planted with varieties that are not permitted in the AOC Champagne. (Appellation d’Origine Controllée)

So M. Gallois faced charges on at least three counts:

Harvesting outside the officially designated dates

Planting grapes varieties not permitted in Champagne which led automatically to a third charge of

Producing and selling wine that did not confirm to the rules of champagne and deceptively passing off this product to consumers as genuine champagne.

The severity with which the authorities view this sort of breach of the rules is reflected in the penalty imposed. The fine of €12,000 was relatively minor; a far more ruinous punishment was the confiscation of some 100,000 bottles from the cellars of M Gallois. These bottles had a reported value of some 2 million euros.


A shift in market dynamics

Kylie Minoghue winesIn other news, Kylie Minogue, whose range of still wines and Prosecco is enjoying spectacular success, has suggested that she would be interested in launching a champagne brand., however this may be easier said than done, in the short term at least, due to the constraints in supply at the moment.

You will have read in recent bulletins that supplies of champagne are extremely tight at the moment. In consequence all champagne makers are wary of taking on new clients and new projects.

The dynamics of the market have shifted significantly over the past two or three years and we have gone from a situation in which champagne houses were keen to accept new clients to the opposite situation in which new clients need to put forward a proposal that offers real benefits to the champagne maker apart from just more volume. This could be the chance to enter markets in which the champagne maker is not currently represented, the chance to reach a new type of consumer, or the chance to be associated with a high-profile personality whose image fits the champagne house’s marketing objectives.

In Kylie Minoghue’s case this should not be a problem, but even so the quantity of bottles available may be somewhat limited for the next year or two until the wines from the 2022 harvest start to become available for sale.

Champagne shipments in 2022

  To put the demand /  supply situation into clearer focus, it has just been announced that the total number of bottles shipped in 2022 ( to France and to export markets) reached 326 million bottles. That’s the second highest figure ever behind only the 338 million bottles shipped in 2007.

In terms of value, the record so far was achieved in 2021 when the total value of shipments was 5.7 billion euros. The precise figure for 2022 has not yet been released but in all likelihood, it will exceed 6 billion euros for the first time

Premiumisation is the name of the game

JacquessonThe combination of strong demand for champagne and the limited supply makes for a classic Sellers’ Market and the prospect of significant profits to be made. This has not escaped the attention of many of the largest names in the world of wine.

In a move that underlines the interest in Champagne shown by major international drinks companies over the past three or four years, Artemis Domaines, a group controlled by the Pinault family which also owns prestige brands from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa Valley, has acquired Champagne Jacquesson, a highly respected and mid-sized producer based in Dizy. This adds to the associated Artemis Domaines already enjoys with Champagne Henriot.

This is yet another piece of evidence that demonstrates the shift, over the past few years, towards the ‘premiumisation’ of champagne which one imagines will lead to higher prices for brands that succeed in creating a premium image and, one only can assume, greater profits for the owners of those brands.

Method in my madness (to C or not to c?)

Finally, some of you may be wondering why I sometimes spell Champagne with a capital ‘C’ and sometimes with a lower case ‘c’. My choice of spelling may seem random but there is some logic to it, at least in my eyes.

Always spelling Champagne with a capital ‘C’ does not take into account the fact that there are two separate ways of referring to the word in French: La champagne means the geographic region of Champagne, whilst Le champagne refers to the sparkling wine made in Champagne.

Since Le and La are not used in English, the only way I can find of differentiating between the two uses of the word is to use a capital ‘C’ for the region and a small ‘c’ for the wine.

I hope this explanation lends some method to my madness, but I am certainly not saying that my method is correct. Feel free to do whatever you want.

Until next month...




Supply and demand

Steps to LB cellarsIn previous Champagne Bulletins, I’ve often touched on the fact that stocks in Champagne are running low because of two consecutive small harvests in 2020 and 2021 followed by a large and unexpected increase in sales of champagne as many aspects of life returned to normal at the end of that pandemic.

The latest shipment data from the CIVC show just how strong the rebound in sales has been.

The moving annual total for shipments in the 12-month period from 1st October 2021 to 30 September 2022 shows a total of 336.5 million bottles shipped.

Contrast this with the figure of just under 300 million per year at the start of the pandemic and with the figure of just 250 million bottles at the low point during the pandemic and you have a good idea of how much sales have taken off recently.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the record from annual shipments stands at 338.7 million which was set in 2007, so we’re well on track to exceed even that within the next few months.

This situation has led to a lot of speculation that there will inevitably be shortages of champagne this Christmas and New Year.

Philippe SchausTo add fuel to this fire, in a recent interview, Philippe Schaus,  the head of Moët Hennessy – the wines and spirits branch of LVMH, the world’s largest luxury brands group - confirmed that he expects just the kind of shortages that have been feared.

Photo credit © Jean-François Robert

Before you rush out right now to buy every bottle you can find, let’s look at the situation more closely.

Yes., it’s true that stocks are under pressure, and it will be a couple of years before stocks are significantly replenished when the wines from the 2022 harvest become available for sale. However, the effects may not be felt in the same way across all segments of the champagne market.

What tends to happen when supply is constrained whilst demand remains high is that prices go up and this is what can already be seen playing out.

One producer I work with has just raised prices for the third time this year and whilst the underlying cause of the increases has been rising prices in raw materials, the effect is to dampen sales which sooner or later will help to ease the pressure on stocks. In this sense the market acts as a self-regulating system as it always does.

This is reassuring in the mid- to long-term, but not in the next few months. Therefore, in the immediate future what we will probably see are fewer and less-generous discount offers over Christmas and the New Year, especially on non-vintage champagnes where the demand over the holiday season is the most intense. Paradoxically, it may be that higher priced cuvées are easier to find with the exception of the very best-known brands which are often subject to supply limitations in normal circumstances.

Aim high

For anyone looking to create a private brand, all this disruption may have a number of impacts.

It’s likely that over the next few months it will be harder to find suppliers willing to accept new projects, particularly if the projected number of bottles is significant and the target buying price is on the low side.

This trend, coupled with rising prices will put additional pressure of the profit margins of any new brand targeting a mid-to-low-end retail price point. However, this segment of the market has always been the most competitive and the most difficult to penetrate, so now more than ever, it makes sense for any new brand to shoot for a more luxury positioning that offers the potential for more viable profit margins.

This interpretation of the state of the market is borne out in a recent study of the global market for luxury brands carried out by Bain & Company.

According to the study, by 2030 there should be an additional 100 million consumers joining the ranks of luxury brand buyers. Foremost amongst these new consumers will be young people born in the early 1980s ( Generation Y) and those born around the turn of the century ( Gen Z )

Know your customers

Wine IntelligenceWhenever I work with a new client on a private brand, one of the first questions I ask is “ Who are your target customers?”

In my view this is an absolutely fundamental question that influences almost every other aspect of the brand image and positioning and consequently is a determining factor in the success of any new brand.  The more you understand your customers, the better you can respond to their expectations and the greater your brand’s chances of success.

That’s why a recent report by Wine Intelligence into the expectations of younger wine drinkers is particularly interesting. The study addressed only the U.K. market, but I think it’s reasonable to extrapolate the findings into other markets

You can read more in this article in The Drinks Business


but the key points are:

A. Boomers (55+) and Gen X (40-54)

  • Boomers and Gen X remain the key targets for the wine industry because wine drinking is a solid habit and wine dominates their alcohol repertoire.
  • These two groups account for 73% of the wine drinking population and 66% of total spend in off-premise.
  • Their wine-drinking focus is on the informal and functional (taste, food matching, relaxation).
  • They have routine purchase-patterns at entry and mid-price points.
  • Gen X (40-54) are more willing than boomers to trade up in the off premise, they are more involved drinkers, and they still seeking novelty.

B. LDA Gen Z (18-24) and Millennials (25-39)

  • LDA Gen Z and Millennials are the key targets in the on-premise and for premium and super premium wines.
  • Both generations account for only 26% of the regular wine drinking population but for around 50% of the total spend in bars, pubs and restaurants.
  • For both of these cohorts, wine carries social values, prompting curiosity, involvement and higher spend levels.
  • LDA Gen Z tend to be price sensitive though are willing to trade up for social occasions. They also show specific interest for sweeter styles of wines, rosé and sparkling.

For those doing business in the USA or Canada, Wine Intelligence publish specific reports into the latest wine trends. Find out more here:


New product launch

On the subject of luxury brands, one new brand of champagne has recently caught the eye.

It’s called Cuvée Karma 2016 and has been produced by Champagne Victor and Charles whose owner claims to have produced the most beautiful bottle in the world.

Cuvee Karma

The bottle certainly looks extremely elegant, and a real diamond is embedded into the logo displayed on each bottle which partly explains the retail price of €575

The wine itself does not lay claim to be of any exceptional quality, but if rarity (only 1,000 bottles available at the moment) and visual impact are anything to go by, then Cuvée Karma should be a success.

The cost of producing a bottle like this one is clearly on the high side – even very high, and so the initial investment would have been considerable, but as we touched on above, the potential return on a luxury brand such as this is also high. With a potential turnover of €575,000 there should be ample room to cover all the development costs plus quite a bit to spare.


That brings me to the end of the last Champagne Bulletin for 2022.

I’ll see you again in 2023 with more news and views from Champagne and in the meantime, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year with plenty of sparkle.



In case you missed it, October 28th was Champagne Day.

Champagne Day 2022In case you’ve never heard of Champagne Day, it started over a decade ago, as an online only event for champagne lovers who wanted to share their enthusiasm with like-minded people around the world. That’s still the central theme to the event, but now it has given rise to loads of spin-off events both on and off-line, to celebrate and share champagne and to get people talking about champagne

Other than Champagne Day it’s been a fairly quiet month in Champagne with one of the main talking points being the sharp increase in costs faced by most champagne makers and other actors in the champagne supply chain. The most significant impact comes from the cost of energy, but this is not something unique to Champagne.

Meanwhile, consumer demand continues to be strong from around the world and the low levels of stocks has lead some producers to put their customers on allocation, meaning that the amount they can order is limited. It’s a situation that is likely to persist into next year and beyond until reserves and stocks have been built back to more healthy levels.

“The first hundred years are the hardest”

So runs the old adage amongst champagne houses.

Ruinart 1729This short phrase may strike you as a bit flippant, but there is a lot of wisdom contained in these few words and they underline the fact that in the champagne business, patience is not just a virtue, it’s an essential.

Once the product itself is ready, the first step is to build and secure your distribution base so that you are achieving satisfactory sales volumes and, crucially, repeat orders from regular customers.

Famous actors, musicians and celebrities have a distinct advantage in this regard because one word on social media from them to their fans can sometimes produce an avalanche of sales. Unless you already have a similarly large and active network of followers it could well take you a couple of years to get to this stage, but growing your customer base is time well spent.

Know your customers

At any stage of brand building, sales forecasting is extremely important not least because of the need to forecast the orders you place with your champagne supplier. These order forecasts need to be as accurate as possible and need to be shared with the champagne maker as early as possible because of the extended lead times involved in the production of champagne.

Getting the sales and order forecasts right is not always easy, especially in the early stages soon after the brand launch. This is why it is so important to research your target market in as much detail as possible.

The big distribution companies have large sales forces and each person in the sales team will have his or her own customer list. The salespeople can give a fairly accurate estimate of the orders that each bar, restaurant, hotel or wine shop is likely to place in the weeks and months ahead and these estimates are aggregated and used to compile the order forecasts sent to the champagne maker.

Online sales are more difficult to estimate but there are several software packages available to help with this task and to maximise sales and customer satisfaction, Enolytics being one worth looking at.



“Start with the end in mind”

Here’s another well-known saying, this one coined, I believe, by Stephen Covey in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’

So, the questions that anyone contemplating starting a private champagne brand should ask themselves are ‘Why am I doing this? What is the objective?’.

One objective that is likely to be on many people’s radar is to sell the brand to a larger company and make a handsome profit. Whilst this isn’t easy, it’s certainly not impossible as the recent flurry of acquisitions in the wine and spirit business demonstrates.

Campari, Diageo and Pernod Ricard have all been on the acquisition trail recently although this activity has mainly concerned drinks other than champagne. However, in the past year or two, Remy Cointreau has purchased Champagne J de Telmont, Campari has purchased a majority stake in Champagne Lallier and LVMH has taken a large share in Ace of Spades (Armand de Brignac) with each of these transactions certainly being worth several million euros.

De Telmont

Of course, getting to the position in which you attract the attention of a large industry player is going to take time, probably a long time, but with a strong vision, plenty of effort and sustained investment, it may not take as long as 100 years.

End of year sales

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that sales of champagne are disproportionately skewed towards the end of the year and to the Christmas and New celebrations with fully 60% of annual sales taking place in the last third of the year.

Apart from being an interesting piece of information, there are a number of implications that are relevant to any brand coming new to the market. To give just two examples:

  • If you want to take advantage of sales opportunities at the end of the year, it’s crucial to ensure that your brand is available well before October.
  • If you are pitching to a distributor, you will need to do this in the first few months of each year because this is when distributors are finalising their product portfolio for the end of the year

These things and more take many months to put in place which sort of brings us back to the quotation at the start of this bulletin. The moral of the story is that however much time you think your project will take, it makes sense to build a few extra months into your planning and/or to start a few months earlier than you would do otherwise.

If you’d like to discuss this or any other aspects of creating your own champagne brand, please send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Until next month, all the best



In this month’s Champagne Bulletin

  • Setting Retail pricing – a science or a shot in the dark?
  • What exactly is a Private Brand?
  • New champagne brand releases
  • Direct to Consumer sales – Some pros and cons
  • Harvest 2022 – a note of caution


How do you set the Recommended Retail Price for your brand?

This can seem like a very big question; there are so many factors that influence the price that the subject can seem bewilderingly complex.

  • What are my costs
  • What margin do I want to / need to make?
  • Should my brand be more expensive or less expensive than brands already in the market?
  • How many bottles do I want to / need to sell to meet your objectives?

to name but a few,

It’s certainly an important question so I don’t want to make light of it, but it’s important, in my view, to remember that there are no hard and fast rules about pricing and you may have more flexibility than you imagine.

Unless you’re dealing with a monopoly such as in Canada, there’s no set formula that says that if your cost is X then your retail price must be Y. You can charge whatever you want provided that you can justify the price you’re asking.

Take the case of this wine maker in Italy for example:

Smallest vineyard

Credit: Facebook/ Via Maria 10

Tullio Masoni claims to have the smallest vineyard in the world. It’s on the rooftop of his apartment in the Reggio Emilia district and yields just 29 bottles of red wine per year.

With such a limited production you’d expect the price to be fairly high, but $5,000 USD per bottle does seem to be a little on the steep side! Nevertheless, that’s the price Sig. Masoni is asking for a bottle of his wine.

At that price you’d expect it to be something very special, and to attract the attention of wine experts everywhere, anxious to taste this marvel, but the risk with that is that any adverse opinion would cast serious doubt on the price. No need for Sig. Masoni to worry about that however – he says that his wine is not meant for drinking.

I’m not sure whether to put this down to Sig. Masoni’s unshakable confidence (arrogance?) or to concede that he has found the most brilliant marketing strategy ever, but it all goes to show that you can demand whatever price you want and some people, somewhere, sometimes will pay it.

Read on to the section below about new brands for another example of ‘creative’ retail pricing.

What’s the difference between a Personalised Label and a Private Brand?

Every industry has its own vocabulary and Champagne is no different, so perhaps it would be helpful to clarify some of them as it relates to creating your own brand.

Personalised Labels are mostly commonly found on wine gift web sites.

At the simplest level the gift company has a stock of bottles that it has already purchased from a champagne maker and you, the customer, can choose from a selection of template labels into which you can insert your choice of text/logo/image etc.  These labels can look very simple and cheap or, depending on the company you’re dealing with, can occasionally look a little more professional, but they can rarely, if ever, be called stylish or elegant.

The customer has no control over any other aspect of the packaging, nor over the choice of champagne which, as mentioned above, has already been purchased by the gift company.

Importantly, the customer does not own the brand name which remains the property of the champagne maker and his or her name features prominently on the label.

Some more specialist suppliers offer the customer the chance to design their own labels and this is certainly a big step up from the template labels on offer at the lower end of the market. Nevertheless, the customer will not have much, if any, say over the rest of the packaging nor over the choice of champagne which, as mentioned above, will have been pre-selected by the supplier.

What uses are Personalised labels suited for?

They are ideal for private or corporate gifts because of the novelty factor, the relatively low cost and of course the opportunity they provide to promote a company or product.

They are not suitable, in my opinion, as the foundation of a champagne business because of all the drawbacks mentioned above.

Roger Daltry ChampagneRoyal British Legion champagneOn the other hand, they can be effective to raise funds for charitable causes. Two excellent examples of this type of use are the champagnes endorsed by Roger Daltry to support Teen Cancer America and more recently the champagne launched to support the Royal British Legion which is an organisation that supports armed forces veterans.

The arrangement about the respective share of the profits from sales is a matter between the charity concerned and the supplier, but the brand name never belongs to the charity.

Private Brands

There are several words that crop up.

Sometimes they are referred to as ‘White Label’ brands or ‘Buyer’s Own Brands’ (BoB), but I am not a fan of ether of these terms because, in my experience, the objective of such projects is to buy at the lowest possible cost and in large quantities so as to promote the end product as a ‘Bargain’ product in supermarkets and similar retail outlets. To meet this objective, the packaging is usually simple and inexpensive, although it can be attractive, and the champagne is rarely of top quality, although there are a few exceptions.

In some instances, the brand actually belongs to the customer, but in others, the brand remains the property of the champagne maker who produces on behalf of the buyer. In these cases, the customer may choose to protect their position by agreeing with the champagne maker that this particular brand will be supplied exclusively to the customer in question and to no one else.

Many supermarket brands fall into this category

I admit that the term Private Brand is my own invention because it describes the sort of exclusivity and quality that is needed, in my view, if the intention of the brand creator is to build a business based on brand equity and image.

This is not to say that Private Brand champagne has to be disproportionately more expensive than others - excellent quality can be found at reasonable prices.

The great advantage of a Private Brand is, as the name implies, that the brand name belongs to the customer and name is registered in his or her name with the authorities in Champagne. In addition, customers who choose a Private Brand usually wish to have more control over all aspects of the packaging and are looking for something more distinctive in terms of packaging.

Most important of all is that fact that the fruits of success, if and when it comes, all revert to the brand owner.

New Brands

Two new champagne brands were launched recently in the USA.

Scott DisickThe first is another celebrity brand of the type seen over recent years across the whole spectrum of wine and spirits. In this instance it’s Scott Disick who is the personality behind the brand. For those of you who haven’t heard of Scott Disick ,he is the former partner of Kourtney Kardashian and regularly appears on TV in the US.

The champagne is made by a company located not far from Reims and one which I know quite well; I have introduced several clients to the same produce over the past year or two.

I am however surprised to read that the mission of this new brand is, according to one of the co-founders “ to bring quality and innovation in the Champagne/sparkling wine category”

Apart from the packaging, which is admittedly quite eye-catching, it’s not obvious to me how this champagne brings innovation to the category.

In addition, the retail price of $150 per bottle seems hard to justify given what I know about the maker of the champagne, unless of course Mr. Disick is using the same sort of marketing strategy as Sig. Masoni above.

The second new brand is much more interesting in my view.

Rendez vousIt’s called Rendez-vous and has been launched under the brand name Diane Salem by co-founder  Fiona Perrin, a French woman who has lived in the USA for many years.

The brand offers a few interesting ideas that I feel, form a more solid basis for marketing than the attributes proposed by Mr. Disick’s brand, although they’re not entirely convincing.

Rendez-vous is said to be ‘natural and vegetarian - claims that are easy to make but for which no evidence is presented. Indeed, the same claim could be made for many champagnes these days.

More interesting is the fact that the accent is very much on the fact that this is pitched as a brand for women who are undoubtedly very influential in consumers’ decision about whether to choose champagne or some other drink. Ms Perrin emphasises the fact that she is not a native of Champagne and that she has had to build her network from scratch over many years.

In contrast to Mr. Disick’s champagne, Rendez-vous will be retailed at about $50 USD. It’s hard, to say the least, to understand exactly what can justify the disparity in price between the two new brands but my guess is that the target consumers are very different and that just goes to show that there will always be customers at any price point if you know where to find them and what they are looking for.

Rendez-vous is apparently an organically produced champagne and consequently is made in relatively small quantities, so sales targets are also modest in scale. My understanding is that Rendez-vous will be sold exclusively online which leads nicely on to the next topic.

Direct to consumer sales

Whatever type of champagne you wish to create, the fact remains that the bottles produced must be sold.

Traditionally the point of sale would be a wine shop, a bar, a restaurant, or a hotel. However, since the advent of the internet it has been much easier to sell directly to the final consumer. This is the term usually applied to sales direct from the wine maker to the customer, but since such sales are invariably made on-line, the term also applies to all on-line sales.

This distribution channel which started as something of a novelty, is now assuming very significant proportions. During lockdowns Direct to Consumer (DtC ) sales took on a critical importance for many wine producers and DtC has become established as an indispensable part of every marketing and sales plan in most global markets including the U.K.

Sales of English wine increased by 69% in the period 2019 to 2021 and again by 31% in 2021. In the same two-year period DtC sales grew by 265% and the channel accounted for 57% of all sales in 2021, up from 36% in 2019.  

Source*Wine GB

In the USA the story is much the same, except on a far larger scale

According to Statista, the total value of DtC shipments in the USA reached 4.2 billion USD in 2021.

DtC in USAAs mentioned above, lockdowns had a significant impact on DtC sales because for many months people couldn’t go out to their favourite bar or restaurant and instead ordered wine to enjoy at home, so as things get back to normal, we shouldn’t expect this fast rate of DtC sales growth to continue.

Interestingly it wasn’t only sales volume that grew over the past couple of years, the value per bottle also increased: by a record 11.8% to $41.16 per bottle ( again as reported by Statista)

Another important attraction about DtC sales is that you are paid before the bottle is despatched to the customer and paid the full retail price. This is in marked contrast to the situation with bars and restaurants that pay wholesale prices and demand generous credit terms.

So, what’s not to like about DtC sales?

Well, there’s an old adage inn the wine business that you build brand image and reputation in the on-trade (bars, clubs hotels and restaurants) and you build volume in the off-trade (wine shops and supermarkets) but you do things in that order: on-trade first and then off-trade.

The difficulty about Dtc is that people are reluctant to purchase wines on-line that they have never tasted or never heard of, and the on-trade is usually the place where people first experience a brand.

This reluctance to try new brands can be overcome with great on-line marketing and by personal recommendation from a friend, colleague or influencer – that’s where celebrity endorsement comes in – but something about the brand has to tempt the consumer to get their bank card out and make the initial purchase on-line.

Finally, on a note of optimism tinged by a little caution…

2022 Champagne harvest double last year’s

You will have read already about the booming sales of champagne over the past year and the consequent shortage of stock. Worries about being able to meet the burgeoning demand meant that there was a lot riding on this year’s harvest, so it was very welcome news to learn that it was an excellent harvest in terms of quality and quantity, and much is being made of the fact that this year’s harvest was double the size of last year’s.

That is, of course, great news and a catchy headline, but before we all get carried away and think that pressures on pricing will ease immediately, don’t forget that a) last year’s harvest was awful so a harvest of double that size is still not extraordinary, b) it will be  a few years yet before the wines from this year’s crop actually make it into the market, so caution and modest expectation will remain the watchwords for a while longer yet.


As ever, if you have any comments or questions about this month’s bulletin, please send me an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I’ll do my best to answer promptly.


Champagne Bulletin August 2022

In this month’s Champagne Bulletin

  • Latest news from this year’s harvest
  • What challenges to expect if you’re thinking of creating a private brand champagne
    • Supply constraints and forecasting
    • Prices are on the up
    • The importance of market research

Harvest 2022 – First impressions

Ripe GrapesWell, for a moment or two in the run-up to the harvest, it looked as though a very rare beast indeed was about to make an appearance: the happy vigneron.

For a few weeks it appeared that all the lights were on green for a superb harvest

  • No significant attacks of mildew or other diseases all year
  • Relatively little damage done by Spring frost
  • Plenty of sunshine to ripen the grapes
  • No major hailstorms to devastate the vineyards
  • Vines laden with bunches to give an abundant yield

In short, everything a vigneron could hope for.

Alas, it was not quite as good as they had hoped, but on the whole things have turned out pretty well after the last two difficult years.

 So, what is preventing an outburst of unbridled joy in Champagne?

The sugar levels in the grape were exceptionally high due to all the sunshine this summer, but consequently the level of acidity was on the low side. This probably means that vintage champagne for 2022 probably won’t have as long an ageing potential as some of the really great vintages.

The lack of rain for much of the year has produced quite small grapes with thick skins. This not only makes pressing more difficult, it also means that the total weight of the bunches is on the low side too; this in turn means that the total yield is not a high as some had been hoping for.

Still, these are fairly minor complaints and there is still much to be grateful for and any vigneron that complains too loudly must take a lot of pleasing.

As ever, the first real indicators of the quality of wines from this vintage will only be known when the still wines are tasted in Springtime next year, but it’s ‘ So far, so good’.

Supply constraints and forecasting

YoshikiOne of the most critical factors in making, marketing and selling champagne is the importance of forecasting. In fact, this cannot be emphasised enough

Understandably, many of my clients have high ambitions for the number of bottles of their private brand that they plan to sell. On the one hand, this is great – it’s important to be ambitious and to believe in your future success; on the other hand, it’s also critical to understand what is and what is not possible.

Unlike products like vodka and gin which can be made almost anywhere, and which can be produced in a short amount of time, champagne needs a minimum of 15 months ageing in the cellars before it can be sold and generally speaking, it’s better, in the interests of quality, to leave the champagne to age for 2,3,4 years or more before it is sold.

It follows that if your initial sales forecast is for 5,000 bottles, but you find that these sell out so quickly that you want to order another 20,000 bottles for delivery as soon as possible, that probably will not be possible.

Although a certain amount of flexibility is built into all good sales and production plans, it is vitally important to understand that forecasting in far more important for champagne than for many other products.

What makes the situation even more tricky at the moment is that current stocks in Champagne are as low as they have been for 20 years or so due to two years of small harvests coupled with a huge increase in demand from all around the world. Things are so tight that some champagne makers are simply refusing new orders or limiting the number of bottles they sell to each customer.

A case in point is the new champagne launched by Pommery in collaboration with the Japanese rockstar Yoshiki. The new champagne was launched on September 1st and the initial 10,000 bottle production sold out in 10 minutes.

That sounds great, but it will be next year before Pommery can supply more bottles to get sales going again.

Despite these difficulties, there are still many champagne makers with some spare capacity who are interested in working on private brands… if you know where to look and who to contact.

Prices on the up

After reading about the supply issues, you won’t be too surprised to learn that prices are going up and will probably continue on that path for the foreseeable future. That is what inevitably happens when strong demand comes up against limited supply.

In addition, the price of grapes is going up partly because the market is being affected by major brands offering more-than-usually-generous deals to growers in order to secure grape supplies

Add into this mix the already high prices for vineyards in Champagne, plus price increases for other raw materials and it’s easy to see that the days when you could source champagne at €10/bottle are long gone and a more realistic minimum these days is €15/bottle unless you are placing a particularly large order.

Nevertheless, there is much evidence that consumers are prepared to pay good prices for quality champagne and consequently attractive margins are available for better quality champagne that is attractively presented and well marketed.

The importance of market research

Rosé ZeroA few days ago, I came across an article that at first, I thought had no relevance whatsoever for the champagne business and even less for anyone who planning to create a private champagne brand. However, on reflection I realised that the article highlighted one really important principle about launching any new brand, including a private champagne brand.

The article was about the market for plant-based meat substitutes which has turned very quickly from boom to bust.

A few years ago, plant-based meat substitutes were a hot topic that attracted several start-up companies with high expectations. The authors of the article suggest that ‘This was always about billionaire investor push, not consumer pull. It will be one of the biggest failures in food industry history.’

The article goes on to ask ‘Why did so many people ignore the clear technical, taste and texture challenges faced by meat substitutes? Why did they ignore the weak marketing proposition? Why did they ignore the risk in the investor-fuelled hype? Why did they ignore the food culture barriers to this category? Why? Because they preferred 'believing' over 'thinking'.

But what’s this got to do with champagne? Quite a lot as it happens and it’s all about the taste of the champagne.

When my clients visit Champagne to meet champagne makers and to taste a range of champagnes to find the one that they prefer, I always emphasise that it is not necessarily the client’s own taste preference that matters, it’s what their target customers want that is the crucial factor.

To give one example, there’s been a tendency in Champagne over the past few years to reduce the amount of added sugar to create a drier taste profile. This added sugar is called the ‘dosage’ in French and broadly speaking it has been reduced from about 10 – 12 grams of sugar per litre to nearer 7 – 8 g/l

This is the level of added sugar used by many of the best-selling brands in the world and one can reasonably conclude that for most consumers, this is the level of sweetness that they expect and enjoy in champagne.

Nevertheless, amongst those whose knowledge of champagne is much more developed – journalists, sommeliers and many people actively engaged in the wine trade – the accepted wisdom is that the lower the amount of added sugar, the better, even down to zero added sugar.

The risk of this approach is that it may put too much focus on the preferences of the relatively few people with expert-level knowledge whilst ignoring what the general public wants.

If we refer back to the article about plant-based meat substitutes, the moral of the story is that what is needed is more thinking and less believing

Rather than choosing what you like and believing that other people will like the same thing, it is crucial to identify your target customers and understand their tastes and expectations. The two things may be the same, but it is dangerous to assume that they are without careful consideration.

That’s all for this month. Next month’s bulletin will be out in a little under four weeks from now and in the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, you can email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Until next month