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Record year for Champagne in UK

Champagne sales in the UK hit a record high last year on the back of a hot summer. But the 2003 summer heatwave may yet prove to be a double-edged sword.

Last year, over 34m bottles of champagne were imported by the UK, continuing the country’s status as the largest market for Champagne outside of France and beating the 1999 figures – when 32.2m bottles were sent to the UK in anticipation of the millennium celebrations. The US and Germany follow behind UK imports at 18.9m and 12m bottles respectively.

Exports to the UK were up by 8.7% and importers for prestigious Champagne houses like Louis Roederer and Bollinger will have to deal with increased demand and pressures on supply levels. Sales over the next few years will have to be carefully monitored to ensure each country receives a fair share.

‘It was a record year for us. The US had a fantastic year and they were begging for more stock by September. In the UK, we were practically down to our last case by 31st December,’ said Chloe Wenban-Smith of Maisons Marques et Domaines, importers of Louis Roederer. Louis Roederer Brut Non-Vintage sales in the UK increased by 22% on 2002.

‘Champagne appears to be becoming more acceptable as a drink outside of the extra-special occasions we often associate it with,’ said Jonathan Stevens of Bollinger stockists, Mentzendorff.

Producers and importers are now hoping that after the low yield of the 2003 vintage – due to the summer heatwave in western Europe which, ironically, increased sales in the UK – this year’s crop will be ample in terms of volume.

‘Knowing that most producers keep a qualitative reserve of must from previous years, this can be used to replace losses in a bad harvest. People in Champagne are relaxed…they do not need to worry about the harvest. If history repeats itself, then we will have a different situation,’ said Françoise Peretti, director of the Champagne Information Bureau.

Written by Oliver Styles

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