In 2007, 39m bottles of champagne were sent to the UK, but shipments then fell by 20% as the financial meltdown took its toll on consumer finances. However in 2010 those bubbly Brits decided champagne was a “necessary treat” to restore their health after the serious belt tightening of 2009, and so they drank 5 million more bottles of champagne to compensate. According to figures recently published by the UK Champagne Bureau, shipments of champagne to Britain increased by 16.3 per cent to 35.5 million bottles, confirming that Britain is the second biggest drinker of champagne in the world after France. Considering the British wine market failed to improve much in 2010, as shoppers continued to watch their weekly supermarket spend and cut back on eating and drinking out of the home, its fascinating to witness the world’s continuing love affair with champagne. The latest Champagne Bureau UK annual tasting held on March 15th 2011 at Whitehall was the largest ever, featuring 83 Champagne producers, 3,000 bottles, and showcasing 250 wines.
Much of the recent champagne sales growth has been in the UK retail (off-premise) channel, where large supermarket chains have been able to use major label champagne discounts and competitively priced own label champagnes as a significant way to drive customers into their stores. David Peek, Sainsbury’s champagne buyer, said that the retailer’s own-label Champagne Etienne Dumont (which won several highly regarded blind tasting competitions in 2009) sold more bottles than Moët et Chandon across all retail outlets in 2010 (When I tried this BOB Sainsburys blancs de noirs champagne myself in June 2010 its quality impressed me and the rich meaty characters reminded me somewhat of Bolly). The Royal Wedding of Prince William in April 2011 and the 2012 London Olympics will also significantly lift UK champagne sales at all price points. One enterprising champagne producer from the Aube (southernmost region of Champagne close to Burgundy) has already launched a special “Royal Wedding” champagne called ‘Prince William’.
Last year Australia maintained a healthy 9th position on the league table for biggest drinkers of champagne, consuming 3.29 million bottles. No 1 consumer France kept 125 million bottles of champagne for herself and the US took 16.9 million bottles(34% up on 2009).
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