Things are looking up again for AOC Champagne with good news for shipments, but also a pledge to farm more organically in a region where there are still relatively few organic growers. How did Champagne sales fare in 2021? How many organic Champagnes were sold in French supermarkets in 2021? And what are the key figures for organic farming in Champagne? We take a closer look at the sparkling wine appellation and its organic offerings.
The market for Champagne in 2021
Champagne’s fortunes have taken a turn for the better after the region suffered significantly from the pandemic. According to the latest figures, published in January 2022 by the Champagne marketing board, total shipments of Champagne in 2021 totalled 322 million bottles, a dramatic 32 % surge on 2020. The French market rose by 25% with nearly 142 million bottles and returned to its 2019 level. Exports continued to gain traction, breaking a new record at 180 million bottles.
Maxime Toubart, chairman of the Champagne winegrowers’ association (SGV) and co-chairman of the Champagne marketing board claims: “The rebound is a nice surprise for Champagne winegrowers after 2020 which was severely impacted (-18%) by the closure of the main consumption outlets and lack of events worldwide”.
A closer look at organic Champagne sales in supermarkets in 2021
Sales of organic Champagnes in French supermarkets in 2021 accounted for just 0.5% of Champagne sales by volume and 0.6% by value. Despite this, Sarah le Douan, in charge of the organic Agence Bio’s observatory, pointed out at Millésime Bio 2022: “Between 2020 and 2021, sales soared by 23.1% by volume and 23.6% by value, mainly due to the strong increase in hypermarkets (+50.7% by volume and 49.2% by value) and growth in supermarkets (+15.5% by volume and +17.2% by value) whereas hard discount outlets plummeted (-61.8% by volume and -54.2% by value) and click-and-collect sales dropped (-22.3% by volume and -20.0% by value)”.
Organic winegrowing in Champagne
In 2016, vineyard acreage farmed organically in Champagne accounted for a mere 2% of total area under vine. In 2019, Pascal Doquet, whose tenures include chairman of the organic Champagne association (ACB), said that “AB-certified vineyard acreage totalled 3.1 %”; by 2020, it had risen to 5.7 %. According to the ACB, “if notifications registered by Agence Bio are confirmed by the regional organic observatory, vineyards farmed organically and in the switch-over phase should reach 2,730 ha, equating to approximately 8% of appellation acreage”. This would be an increase of +43% (the figures are not yet consolidated). In practical terms, this means that in December 2021 567 estates were producing organic Champagne.
Champagne growers at Millésime Bio 2022At the international organic fair in Montpellier, the 1,450 exhibitors included 11 Champagne firms. Pascal Doquet, who was taking part for the second time at the in-person event, was among them. He recounts: “This year we primarily saw French buyers on a mission because there were very few of us exhibiting”. He and his wife Laure farm 8.6 hectares in the Côte des Blancs and the Côtes du Perthois. They have been certified organic since 2009. Two co-operatives were also among the exhibitors: Chassenay d’Arce and Champagne H. Blin, which describes itself as “the first and only co-operative to market organically farmed wines for many years, starting in 2013,” according to its director Daniel Falala. As Pascal Doquet commented: “Organic Champagnes are progressing thanks to young sommeliers, both in France and overseas, who no longer want to present only the major Champagne brands but offer winegrower Champagnes with a story, an origin and a terroir”.