Champagne organisation on mission to demystify vintage

06 April, 2007

Trade to get advice and information on best ways to educate consumers

Vintage Champagne will be the focus of the Champagne Information Bureau's UK campaign this year.

Speaking at the CIB's recent annual tasting , director Françoise Peretti said: "We feel the UK is a knowledgeable market and there is definitely value in us explaining better what vintage is." She said only a minority of Champagne drinkers understand vintage.

The CIB will support the trade in educating customers by providing advice and information booklets.

Champagne houses and suppliers are also getting behind the vintage push.

Moët Hennessy - which has just released rosé and white Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2000 Champagnes - is rolling out a project to educate consumers , according to PR manager Alex Field. "We're starting with sommeliers, but the effect will filter down to the off-trade," he said.

Lanson national account manager Emmanual Taupin said: "We've got a shortage of Champagne - non-vintage has reached a level where we can't supply any more so the time has come for people to try to educate consumers about vintage."

Pernod Ricard brands Perrier Jouët and Mumm will start to release younger vintages to the UK market. Brand ambassador Ken Wilkins said the push is a "good exercise" as warmer weather in Champagne has led to consistently better harvests.

Retailers think there are some challenges to promoting vintage fizz. Waitrose Champagne buyer Dee Blackstock MW said customers find it hard to understand the concept.

She said: "They're told that the secret of good Champagne is that it is a blend of grapes, vineyards and vintages - and they have bought into that. For example, Krug considers its non-vintage its flagship.

"They understand the luxury goods element of prestige cuvées such as Dom P érignon and Cristal - the fact that these are vintage is secondary. Much education is required to persuade them to pay the hefty premium for a Champagne from a single year yet which is not a prestige blend."

Blackstock added: "A two-pronged approach of education and price promotion to encourage trial might help get the message across."

Majestic , however, has reported increasing sales of vintage Champagne.

Champagne Agents' Association chairman and Laurent-Perrier UK managing director David Hesketh MW said multiple retailers should increase ranges by "carrying one or two vintages from different houses". The off-trade should focus on putting value back into the category, he added.

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