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Majority of Champagne is not being sold "well" says Taittinger chief

Published:  27 November, 2013

Up to 70% of Champagne around the world is not being sold "well" and the major houses need to step up their act to protect the category, according to the head of Champagne Taittinger, Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger.

He told that of the 300m bottles of Champagne sold around the world a year "only 85-90m are 'well sold'. That is something we have to change, we have to elevate the general standard".

In a wide ranging interview he told Champagne writer, Giles Fallowfield, that the UK market is  "doing very well" and is a "very vibrant sparkling market compared with France".

He said the heavy discounting taking place in some French supermarkets was having a potentially damaging impact not only on its domestic market but around the world.

"It hasn't made it difficult for us to sell our wines, but it is very bad for the general image of Champagne. Some sparkling wines are now more expensive than these Champagnes. The only future for Champagne is the quality route, that's the only way the region of Champagne can survive."

He added: "There are three things needed to make a great Champagne: the will of the owner; quality grapes; and sufficient ageing. Not the basic 15 months on its lees, you need three and a half or four years ageing as a minimum."

Taittinger conceded the price of Champagne could not afford to go much higher.

"The cost of grapes plays a very great role in the final price of Champagne and it can't go up [much] further. We have seen the price of grapes rise every year for 15 years but this year they will only go up by a small amount, by between 1.8% and 2%, and perhaps we have reached a peak because for the first time we find that we can buy all the grapes we want, which is a new experience. So over the next two or three years maybe they will be stable ? not decreasing ? although that could happen."

He said the major Champagne houses needed to invest far more in its non-core markets.

"We need a lot of investment and effort to build the image especially in markets outside Europe and the US.  In the new markets like Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe, Asia and South America we need to spend a lot to develop these markets. It will take a lot of investment and it's a cost all the producers will have to share."

But he said the overall quality of Champagne "has never been better".  "When I first started working at Taittinger there were only 10 oenologists working in the whole of Champagne and half of them were at Moët, now there are [at least] 350."

You can read the full interview here.