As we move into the holidays, familiar seasonal drinks make their yearly debuts, like eggnog and Champagne. As most Champagne drinkers know, true “Champagne” may only be called such if it is grown in the contained region of Champagne, France, from very specific grapes, processed under very rigid guidelines. Getting in the mood for holiday bubbly, I was doing a little research and came across some interesting information that I wanted to share. This research is specific to French Champagne.
Back in the day, royalty throughout Europe touted and promoted Champagne, giving it its initial glamour as an aristocratic, expensive beverage consumed only by the wealthy.
However, before and during WWII, Champagne began to be marketed to the middle classes, with the intention of increasing its appeal. Possibly as a result of these efforts, Champagne’s popularity now jumps economic boundaries.
You would think that this would be a good thing for Champagne makers who now have a much larger audience to service. Surprisingly, Champagne makers are nervous. Why? Well, the answer starts more than 50 years ago.
In the late 1950s, France established production and pricing controls, which kept Champagne prices at artificially low levels. When these controls ended in 1989, the market began to recalibrate to actual price reality. This, coupled with factors like saturated planting, back-stock sellouts due to previous high demand years, and price negotiations between producers and growers, has contributed to dramatic price increases over the last 25 years.
If wealthy people were the only people drinking Champagne, the price changes would have had little effect. The problem is that the middle class is much more sensitive to Champagne’s price fluctuations. And with the economic downturn of the past five to ten years, this sensitivity is even greater.
So as the price of Champagne has gone up, demand has gone way down, and many producers have been forced to cut prices. The result is severe pressure on profits and a lot of anxiety.
So if you would like to help Champagne producers this holiday season, buy Champagne! After all, ‘tis the season!