Booze | January 19, 2021 11:25 am

Champagne’s Decline in 2020 Wasn’t Nearly as Bad as Expected

Oddly, COVID measures in England may have helped spur sales over the holidays

empty bottle of Champagne
Champagne sales declined in 2020, but not as much as feared.
Kristian Buus/In Pictures via Getty Images

Don’t pop the cork yet, but it turns out Champagne sales showed some resiliency during the first year of COVID.

Given that France’s sparkling export is too often designated just for celebratory events, producers feared the worst in a pandemic year. But as The Drinks Business reports, Champagne shipments for 2020 fell by 18% last year, a year-end decline of around 50 million bottles but only half of the expected drop-off.

With hospitality and travel sectors basically shut off for a majority of the year, the initial outlook last year was grim. And surprisingly, over half of the decline came from France itself.

But sales rebounded in England over the holidays to such a degree that more Champagne was drunk at home in 2020 than in 2019 in that country, with December sales up 13% in a year-to-year comparison (and apparently, they were drinking the pricier stuff, too). And no, they weren’t celebrating increased quarantining measures or a Brexit plan.

Instead, you can credit COVID-19 and social restrictions for getting Brits to spend a bit more — particularly since government plans had kept people working and their disposable income wasn’t being used for anything else.

“All those consumers who would usually drink branded Champagne and premium wines in the on-trade had to transfer their consumption somewhere, and they have transferred their spend from the on-trade to good wine and food at home,” Julien Lonneux, Vranken-Pommery’s UK CEO, told The Drinks Business. “Normally there would be lots of people at home for Christmas, and parties, but this year, with just two to three people, there has been trading up from entry-level to branded and premium Champagnes.”