Champagne price wars in the run-up to Christmas are fiercer than ever this year – but are also a reality of a market dominated by the major supermarkets, say the wine trade.
In the UK off trade (supermarkets) both Tesco and Sainsbury’s have announced 25% discounts running over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. When buying six bottles, on top of individual brand discounts, meaning that for instance, you can buy six bottles of Piper-Heidsieck from Sainsbury’s for £14.25 a bottle, or less than half-price.
Similarly, Tesco is offering Nicolas Feuillatte Brut NV at £11.25 a bottle when buying six, down from a regular price of £25; while Asda is offering a half-price deal on the same wine, down to £15 from its regular price there of £30. There are deals across many of the Grand Marques which cannot be found at any other time of the year or directly from the merchants who import the wines.
Some Champagne houses choose not to partake; ‘Tesco came calling as they do every year,’ James Simpson, managing director of Pol Roger UK, told Decanter.com at Decanter’s recent Fine Wine Encounter. ‘[With production at approximately one million bottles of the NV, which is small for Champagne] We said: “Awfully sorry, don’t have enough.”
‘As an industry, yes, we’ve got a problem. But there’s a lot of wine that needs selling, and the only place you can sell decent quantities is in supermarkets, who use Champagne as a loss-leader, relatively. You get what you pay for.’
In the on-trade (restaurants) Richard Billett, managing director of Louis Roederer UK distributor Maisons Marques et Domaines, highlighted opportunities, where he said Roederer had seen growth on last year – a trend he expects to continue with by-the-glass sales in the run-up to Christmas. Roederer is another house not as involved in the off trade.
He added: ‘Undeniably, the sparkling wine and Champagne market has become more competitive with the recent rise in popularity of Prosecco and English sparkling, but at the same time the renewed consumer interest in the category as a whole has also benefited the upper-end hierarchy.’
Juliette Alain, sales director at Nicolas Feuillatte, said there was a ‘mixed picture’ in the UK, with demand quite stable, despite some of the ongoing economic and political uncertainties in the European Union, and intensified competition.
‘We try to keep the discounts at an acceptable level, in order to preserve the image of the brand Nicolas Feuillatte, and more generally the image of the Champagne category,’ she added.
‘We prefer to reinforce our marketing investments to stimulate the brand in-store by advertising in retailers’ publications, competitions or direct mailings for loyalty card-holders.’
Whether you are buying in the supermarket with heavy discounts, digging out growers Champagne from your local merchant or choosing bubbles in the restaurants, Champagne volume during the festive season is here to stay, no matter how it is packaged.