The holiday rush, those weeks from November to New Year’s Eve, is when the Champagne houses reap most of their annual profits.
Americans are the second-largest drinkers of Champagne – outside France. Shipments of the bubbly to the United States plummeted 41.2 % this year – yet sales of cheaper sparkling wines – typically from Spain or Italy – are up 10%.
Bargains are a crass notion for an industry, which carefully cultivates its image of luxury and glamour. The modest discounts that we’ve seen so far aren’t enough to make us want to “buy up” yet.
How the producers respond to the challenge of a changing market will be watched very carefully. Instead of lowering prices, some of the high-end houses are spending more money on marketing ‘glamour’ and ‘indulgence’ – a chancy proposition in this globally shrinking economy.
Moët & Chandon, the leader in the American market, is offering a $447 “Celebration Case” that includes a magnum of Moët Imperial, Champagne flutes and medallions with colored Swarovski crystals encased in gilded bubbles. Marc Jacheet, the global director for Moët & Chandon says, “It’s not a price battle that we want to get into. We do discount, but selectively and reasonably. We believe more in providing rituals.” Rituals?
Rémy Cointreau’s Piper-Heidsieck label is promoting a $500 gift package of a bottle of brut Champagne and a hand-blown, crystal ruby stiletto shoe designed by Christian Louboutin. See: Twisting Vines Oct. 9. The company’s YouTube video is a romantic dream scene of a modern Cinderella who leaves behind a shoe just like it for her distraught lover, who is consoled by the Champagne overflowing from the instep.
Will this be enough to prevent the wineries in northeastern France from being sold? We’ll see. But one thing I would bet on is some wonderful Champagne bargains after January 1st.