During the corona crisis, winegrowers and champagne houses argue over the harvest volume of the luxury champagne grape. There is a lot of money at stake. The French already speak of “war”.
What should be the price of a bottle of champagne? The makers and retailers of the famous luxury sparkling wine from the northeastern province of France are currently arguing over this issue.
The context is the significant drop in champagne sales during the corona crisis. While big brands like Veuve Clicquot and Pommery are calling for reduced harvests to artificially reduce quantities and keep prices high, the vintners who grow the wine fear for their existence, according to media reports.
The dispute eventually culminated when the two sides were ultimately unable to agree on a fixed amount for the upcoming harvest. According to Austrian TV station ORF, this normally happens until the end of July. The French media are already talking about a “trench warfare”.
Sales could drop by 100 million bottles
In the depots of many wine merchants, large stocks have already been built up. Their fear: If the champagne supply continues to grow this year due to too large a harvest, they could stay on their bottles – or they would have to cut prices significantly.
The Champagne Manufacturers Association UMC currently assumes that the industry will sell about 100 million bottles less this year than in 2019. That would correspond to a percentage drop of 34%.
Champagne winemakers, on the other hand, fear ruin if they sell less of the luxury grape to brands. Specifically, according to an AFP news agency report a few weeks ago, there is a difference of up to 2,500 kilograms of harvested wine per hectare, which the two sides are arguing over.
For the first time since WWII, no deal
“The winegrowers want to harvest 8,500 kilograms per hectare and the brands only want 6,000 to 7,000 kilograms”, specifies the Bernard Beaulieu agency, winemaker from the village of Mutigny near the Champagne town of Reims. According to him, it has not happened “since World War II” that there has not been an agreement between winegrowers and traders so close to the harvest.
This year’s harvest begins on August 20. It remains to be seen whether the “champagne war” will be decided by then. The next meeting of the two parties is scheduled for August 18.