2020 is the year of cancelled weddings, anniversaries, landmark birthdays and graduations. Subsequently, there have been fewer celebrations and the champagne industry has fallen flat.
The Champagne Market
In the wake of a pandemic, celebrations do not have their usual appeal. What were once joyful occasions are now anxiety-inducing, potentially risky, and capped at a measly number of guests. In addition to large-scale events and small-scale celebrations, restaurants and bars typically make up a huge proportion of champagne sales. The multiple months of closures across the world, and decreased consumer confidence in restaurants even now, has meant tragedy for the champagne sector. For an industry dependent on joy and celebration, a world-wide pandemic spells disaster.
The champagne region is dense with suffering growers, about 15,000 growers to be exact. Cellars are full of unsold bottles, vineyards are full of unpicked grapes, and the region is at great unrest. The BBC reports that on the 18th August, a decision will be made about how many champagne grapes each of the growers is allowed to put on the market. Typically, the region follows a “single-yield” rule, capping the amount of grapes per hectare for each grower. However, this year things are different. The suppliers want the dealers to buy more to compensate for the loss of the year and stay financially stable. The dealers are pushing for a low yield to spare them spending millions of unopened bottles.
At the height of the lockdown, champagne sales were down by an estimated 75%. Although consumption is starting to rise, the figures are not promising. Experts predict that only 200 million bottles will be sold in 2020. This is about 100 million bottles fewer than the previous year.
What will happen to the grapes?
With cellars at full capacity and sales forecasts low, growers are left to decide whether they forego this year’s harvest or turn the grapes to vinegar. Sadly the grapes cannot last indefinitely and without selling current stock, there is little room for more production.
How to Adapt to a Pandemic
For many champagne producers, tourism was becoming a viable option to expand the market. However, tourism also was one of the worst impacted industries during the pandemic. That being said, like many tourism professionals, some champagne workers are exploring virtual experiences. Virtual cellar tours and virtual tastings may be the foreseeable future of champagne.