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Champagne Summit attracts global following

Published:  12 March, 2012

Harpers' Champagne Summit has become a global event as 42,000 people from across the world followed the event on Twitter.

Online participants from as far afield as Australia, the US and South America joined the UK trade in London as social media expert Jayne Powell - aka Champagne Jayne - hosted a tasting of seven Champagnes, from artisan grower styles to prestige cuveés. A live stream of global commentary saw the hashtags for the event attract more than 350 comments.

This year's summit questioned how the trade can keep Champagne's fizz alive in the current downturn.

The structure of the UK market is changing dramatically, according to MHUK managing director Jo Thornton, who said the company has reduced its volume available through the off-trade by 9%. This move has resulted in the on-trade and independent business being bigger than the multiples "for the first time in 20 years", according to Thornton.

The importance of the on-trade to the future growth of Champagne should not be underestimated, added Sara Hicks, UK director of Vranken-Pommery Monopole.

The house strategically steers clear of the off-trade, Hicks said, because it's where lots of "big-brand bashing" takes place.

In contrast, the on-trade offers the opportunity to get the brand name known and build a direct following with the end consumer.

Ted Sandbach from the Oxford Wine Company demanded transparency from producers around pricing.

He criticised some leading houses for offering the multiples lower retail prices than those offered to his own firm. "I'm often very disappointed by some of the big Champagne houses' attitudes towards independents," he said.

For full coverage of the Champagne Summit, read this week's issue of Harpers Wine & Spirit.