As Champagne Sales Plummet, Producers May Throw Away Tons of Unused Grapes
Few sounds speak to celebration like the pop of a Champagne cork. And beyond its festive reputation, the pricy sparkling wine practically begs for a group setting since an unfinished bottle of fizz pulled from the fridge never tastes as good the next day. But at a time when COVID-19 has brought social events to a halt, many of Champagne’s calling cards are now working to the drink’s detriment—and 2020 will be one of the French winegrowing region's worst years in modern history.
While some booze sales have done okay with more people drinking at home, sales of the socially-inclined Champagne are down about $2 billion so far this year, representing about a third of last year’s nearly $6 billion total record turnover, according to the Associated Press. By the end of 2020—with all the postponed weddings, closed clubs, and other canceled events—the Champagne Committee (CIVC), which represents thousands of producers across the region, believes that about 100 million bottles will go unsold. “We are experiencing a crisis that we evaluate to be even worse than the Great Depression,” Communications Director Thibaut Le Mailloux was quoted as saying.
Even more disheartening to both drinkers and producers is that the coming vintage will almost undoubtedly be affected, too. On August 18, CIVC will meet to decide ways to curb the damage the coronavirus has caused—and the most likely scenario is a drastic cap on future production to keep the price of Champagne from collapsing under the weight of too much supply and too little demand. As a result, unprecedented amounts of grapes will reportedly have to be destroyed or sold off to distilleries—meaning, as has been the case in other French wine regions, even mighty Champagne may end up as common sanitizer.
“Champagne has never lived through anything like this before, even in the World Wars,” Anselme Selosse of Jacques Selosse Champagnes—who called the idea of destroying grapes “an insult to nature”—told the AP. “We have never experienced [. . .] a sudden one-third fall in sales.”
Meanwhile, another discussion is apparently in the works: With social-distancing perhaps hanging around for some time, Champagne may need to shed its social reputation. “There will be a very big change to our marketing,” Paul-Francois Vranken, founder of Vranken-Pommery Monopole, was quoted as saying.
So get ready to pop a bottle to celebrate the little things—like binge-watching the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe for the fifth time. Congrats!