Britain’s love affair with Champagne continues, with record shipments in 2004, according to the Champagne Information Bureau. And consumers are also trading up to vintage and blended Champagnes from specific years, adding value as well as volume to the market.
The old Champagne houses continue to perform well in the UK market, but looking to the future the main challenges are global warming, limited production and the growing popularity of own-label
versions such as Tesco’s Premier Grand Cru.
Dominique Demarville, cellar master at Champagne GH Mumm, which produces Cordon Rouge, rosé, vintages and Mumm de Cramant, says summers are becoming hotter, leading to earlier harvests and the risk of Champagne becoming too fruity. He says producers are looking at new methods of fermentation and making sure they lay down enough old vintages to overcome inconsistencies.
In terms of own label, Demarville believes the brands have nothing to fear.
Vincent Gillet, country manager for Mumm and Perrier Jouët, also says that own-label Champagnes are not a threat to established brands. “Champagne houses can’t compete at that price point, but we welcome Champagne that tastes good at any price.”
Demarville says the future is bright for the UK market. The company, which was bought by Pernod Ricard as part of its acquisition of Allied Domecq, is hitting the UK Christmas market with Mumm Grand Cru. The Champagne includes varietals from five of the best Grand Cru vineyards.
Cava will also continue to thrive, says Bill Breen, MD at Cordoníu UK. “Cava is not an apology for Champagne; it is entirely different. The taste profile is very suitable for British palates.”