A new book about cognac and a new Champagne from Gosset represent good news as Champagne sales decline in the UK. For publication in week of 29 January 2018.
Gosset has made available a new Champagne at the premium end of the market, despite the fact that Champagne sales have declined in the UK, one of the Champagne region’s biggest markets.
The top nine consumers of Champagne around the world, in descending order of value, are the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, German, Italy, Belgium, Australia, Switzerland and Spain. France consumes about half of all the Champagne sold globally. Last year global Champagne sales fell two per cent, to 306 million bottles.
The new Gosset Champagne is the Grand Blanc de Noirs. It retails for about GBP 75 (about USD 106). The wine is 100 per cent Pinot Noir and aged for nine years on lees. Grapes come only from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards. The wine is typical of Gosset in the sense that it does not undergo malolactic fermentation, meaning the wine retains its acidity and freshness.
Gosset has also started selling its Grand Blanc de Blancs in a clear bottle. Both are beautiful wines, combining intensity of flavours and aromas with elegance. Gosset is the oldest wine house in Champagne, founded in Ay in 1584. Ay sits on the Marne River opposite Epernay. The house started using its unique flask-shaped bottle the 18th century.
Retail sales of Champagne in the UK fell by 20 per cent last year, or about 3.4 million bottles (16.7 million to 13.3 million). This followed a fall in the 2016 calendar year of more than 5 million bottles, a drop of about 9 per cent compared with 2015. While the decline in volume for 2017 was about a fifth, the fall in value was only about 11 per cent because of increased prices mostly brought about by the plummet in the value of Sterling after the Brexit vote in June 2016.
Most of the fall in Champagne sales occurred among entry-level products sold in supermarkets. The impact was considerably less for premium brands.
The UK news is not all bad for the Champagne region. The International Wine and Spirits Research (IWSR) organisation predicts that sales of sparkling wines (including Champagne) will grow by 8.6 per cent over the next two years. By then sales will total 240.4 million 12-bottle cases, up from 221.3 million cases in 2016. It should be noted that the growth will be led by Prosecco, “which will definitely drive sparkling wine growth for the future,” the IWSR reported.
Prosecco sales are predicted to increase by more than 36 per cent over the next five years from 25.2 million cases to 34.4 million cases (yes, that’s 412.8 million bottles). IWSR data show that Champagne sales will rise 1 per cent over the same period. Cava is expected to remain static and Asti will fall by about 6 per cent.
The sparkling wine market in China is predicted to boom, with a 44 per cent rise in volume sales to almost 2.2 million cases by 2020. Much of that growth is expected to come from low-end sparkling imports and locally-produced sparkling.
Gosset marked the arrival of its new Grand Blanc de Noirs with a dinner and wine pairing in Brighton this week, followed by a pairing of Frapin cognac with food. Cognac is shaking off its fusty image of only being consumed at the end of a meal, or with a cigar.
The event also marked the local release of a book, The World of Cognac, by Michelle Brachet. Her manuscript received the award for best wine book for professionals at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2014. Brachet is an acknowledged cognac expert who contributes to the major web site www.Cognac-Expert.com and her book is a delight. She notes that cognac and Asian food “go together particularly well”.
Note to readers: This column is adapting a new format from this edition. Given readers are busy people, the number of words will be reduced to 600 instead of 1,000 and the space allocated to a photograph or video.