Party’s over for champagne industry as Covid-19 shutdowns take toll

Épernay, France, Aug 29 (efe-epa).-“Champagne is a celebration, but not at the moment” says Pierre, who runs a shop selling the world famous sparkling wine in Epernay, the heart of Champagne.

Although visitors have not disappeared entirely, there certainly are much fewer this year, Pierre laments as he looks over his books.

The pandemic has taken a severe toll on his business, as it has on much of the event-dependant champagne industry.

Across the world, Covid-19 shut bars and restaurants, champagne’s traditional places to shine.

Other crises like the financial crash in 2008 only had relatively limited impact on the beverage, suffering just a 5 percent drop in sales.

“Back then, many still had something to celebrate,” Pierre quips.

In the region, there is still hope of a recovery. “The coming years will tell us if champagne will allow us to keep dreaming. I hope so, because the spirit of Champagne is to make products of good quality with good humour, and to celebrate. There will always be things to celebrate,” says producer Etienne Goutorbe.

He represents a third generation of independent producers of a sparkling wine named after the family that this year will suffer a 22 percent drop in sales compared to last year.

Unlike bigger manufacturers, who have well established supply chains with supermarkets, bars, restaurants and airports, smaller producers have had to find clients at trade fairs.

Now, that work is bearing fruit, “because confinement was a good moment to pop a bottle of champagne at home with the family”, Goutorbe says.

These smaller producers have actually fared better during the pandemic compared to last year, unlike their larger competitors, some of whom have reported 30 percent losses.

And with the end of the year normally accounting for nearly half of annual sales, the forecasts are not positive.

“What would be really terrible is if there was a second lockdown at the end of the year,” says Alexander Salmon, who runs a “maison” that his grandfather started. “That would kill us.” EFE-EPA


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