Champagne’s up and downs

Champagne’s up and downs

Champagne Deutz

Like all primary producers, those in the wine industry have their ups and downs from year to year and season to season. There are so many “uncontrollables”; drought, frost, flood and pest infestation being just a few of the more common ones.  Not even the most successful and high profile regions are immune from misfortune – as Champagne Deutz has found out over the last year or so. After enduring COVID related declines in sales in 2020 and then one of the worst vintages in decades, 2021 then saw a run-in with Russia over branding issues before the tide of fortune started to turn with some better news to start 2022 – sales have rebounded, and Champagne Deutz is back in Australia!

The impact of COVID on champagne sales was probably not unexpected when you consider that the French fizz is so often served at functions, events and festive occasions. COVID closures put paid to celebrations for the better part of 2020 and most of 2021, but the double whammy for French producers was weather related, as in 2021 the country’s wine output was predicted to tumble by 29% due to frosts, rain and disease during Spring and Summer. The Champagne region was one of the worst affected by mildew and at the time they were expecting to make about 36% less wine than they did in the previous vintage. To put that in perspective, according to the French government, it would translate to a loss of sales of about $2 billion euros.

To make matters worse, while producers were licking their climate related wounds through 2021, at the same time they found themselves in battle with Russia after President Putin signed a law which prohibited champagne houses selling their wares under the eponymous title. Rather than labelling it as “Shampanskoe” (Champagne) in native Russian, it could only be sold as “sparkling wine”.  The spat was concerning for the famous French region as Russia is the 15th largest export market for French Champagne – consuming 1.8 million bottles of their bubbles in 2019.

In better news for the champagne producers, sales in 2021 ended strongly with 322 million bottles sold in the calendar year – an increase of 32% on the 2020 year and in line with what had been achieved pre-COVID. In dollar terms, that translates to sales worth about $5.5 billion euros! And in good news for both France and us Aussies, after three years in the proverbial wilderness, one of the oldest Champagne houses is back on the shelves in Australia as Champagne Deutz has a new domestic distributor.

It was only in January this year that Head of Marketing for the Australian owned Calabria Family Wine Group, Elizabeth Calabria announced a partnership with the Champagne house from Ay that traces its origins back to 1838. Now owned by the Rouzard family – which also owns Louis Roederer – Deutz is a well established brand which makes premium fizz under the guidance of Chef de Cave Michel Davesne. I suspect that we won’t see the full range here in Australia, but I have to admit to being impressed by the Champagne Deutz Brut Classic NV.  You’ll be able to buy it at around $70 a bottle and it compares well at the price-point.

It’s all about balance with the Brut Classic as three varietals, chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier are blended in equal proportions, each contributing to the poise, grace and balance of the final product. Pour a glass and you’ll find that the colour is more golden that most froggy fizz making it as enticing to the optical nerve as it is to the taste buds. A fine bead urges you to take a sip when the slightly floral nose precedes Granny Smith apple and brioche bun characters on the palate. The yeasty edge continues through the middle where cashew nut and a liberal toastiness add to the experience. A perfect sparkling wine to use as an aperitif, perhaps served with canapés or a restaurant’s amuse-bouche. 

The last couple of years have been challenging for the producers in Champagne, but there’s now cause for optimism – so it’s cheers all round!


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