10 key trends reshaping the champagne industry

Champagne, France

2023 was a transformative year for Champagne, marked by significant adjustments and a return to a stable situation after the rollercoaster caused by the pandemic. As the world emerges from the shadow of Covid-19, Champagne has recalibrated itself to face new realities and opportunities. Here we examine ten crucial developments shaping the present and future of this iconic region, based on trends observed in 2023 and early 2024. This insight was collected by Patrick Schmitt MW, editor-in-chief of The Drinks Business, supplemented with data from the Comité Champagne .

1. A return to stability

According to the Champagne Committee, the Champagne market has stabilized to pre-pandemic levels, with a shipment volume of around 300 million bottles. After the fluctuations of 2020 and the strong increase in 2021 and 2022, the region has found its footing again. However, bottle prices have increased and remain at higher levels than pre-Covid times, even as promotions return. This means that champagne now carries a premium price tag.

2. Market repositioning

The price increase has prompted many producers to change their strategies. More affordable labels have been phased out in favor of higher value cuvées. This shift is especially evident in France, where brands like Nicolas Feuillatte and Canard-Duchêne have discontinued their budget options. The focus is now on using more expensive grapes to create premium cuvées, tailoring their pricing strategies to market demand.

3. Expansion into the Arabian Peninsula

An emerging market for champagne is the Arabian Peninsula, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite strict alcohol regulations, more flexible policies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are fueling growth in champagne sales. Furthermore, changes in Saudi Arabia’s regulations could make the country an important market in the near future.

4. The Pinot Noir Renaissance

Pinot Noir is central to Champagne, with growing production of blanc de noirs and single-vineyard expressions. This move towards showcasing terroir-specific characteristics reflects the trend of ‘Burgundization’, which focuses on the unique qualities of individual vineyards, similar to practices in Burgundy.

5. Experimental aging techniques

Champagne producers are exploring innovative fermentation and maturation methods. Some experiment with gilded barrels and egg-shaped oak containers. Others age champagne underwater or use solera techniques to add complexity to their non-vintage cuvées. These methods push the boundaries of traditional champagne making.

6. Sustainable viticulture

More and more producers are adopting sustainable viticultural practices, including organic and biodynamic farming. These practices not only benefit the environment, but also result in higher quality grapes. Notable leaders in this movement include Louis Roederer and Telmont, who set the standard for sustainable winemaking in Champagne.

7. Diversification of grape varieties

In addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, increasing emphasis is being placed on less common varieties such as Meunier, Petit Meslier, Arbane and Pinot Blanc. These varieties are replanted and processed into new blends, increasing the diversity of the champagne offering.

8. Environmentally friendly packaging

The champagne industry is committed to reducing its impact on the environment by using lighter, recyclable bottles and phasing out gift packaging. However, the traditional foil on the bottle caps is retained, preserving this distinctive feature of Champagne.

9. Complex and dry cuvées

There is a trend towards producing more complex and dry cuvées, with an increase in brutal expressions of nature. This precision in winemaking ensures greater transparency and authenticity in champagnes, with fewer added sugars emphasizing the true character of the wine.

10. Production of still wines

Champagne increases production of still wines, especially Pinot Noir, marketed as Coteaux Champenois. This development underlines the quality of the grapes and the region’s potential to produce fine, full-bodied red wines that rival those from Burgundy.

Looking forward

According to Alexei Rosin, Managing Director of Moët Hennessy UK & Ireland, 2023 was a positive year for their brands, with strong demand and increased marketing investment. However, the cost of living crisis and high inflation have had an impact on consumption, pointing to a more stable future.

The Comité Champagne data reflects a return to pre-Covid shipment levels, with a total of 299 million bottles in 2023. However, value remains close to 2022 peaks due to price increases.

Champagne remains a dynamic region, adapting to economic and climatic changes, innovating production techniques and expanding into new markets. These efforts ensure continued relevance and prestige in the wine world, keeping Champagne at the forefront of the global wine industry.