Champagne - Buffer Stock
I was amazed by the amount of unpicked fruit on the vines during my October visit to the Champagne region. The reason was the restriction in yield at harvest due to the excess buildup of bottles as global demand slumped; permitted yield was down from 14,000kg/hectare at 2008 harvest to 9,700 kg/hectare. This is not the whole story, though. The Champenois have a cunning buffer stock called blockage which is held by the houses.
Effectively this is pressed juice that cannot be used for a certain time and which is intended to subsidise yield in the event of a truly awful harvest in the future. 2,000kg/hectare headed to top the blockage stocks up to their maximum limit this year and the balance of the juice went off to become industrial alcohol. As it was such a prolific harvest, the producers could afford to be highly selective – hence why so many grapes were left for the birds.
What does it mean for us as consumers? That the future is steady and assured I suspect. There is plenty of good quality stock available and great stuff in the pipeline from the harvest of 2009. The easing of demand has taken the relentless growth pressure out of champagne generally and has caused producers to focus again on quality.
There will be a glut of supermarket cut price champagne offers in the UK this year as we run up to Christmas. In fact, this has been the pattern for the past few years so no change there. These headline grabbers are highly restricted offers and are being subsidised by the supermarkets so they can secure our grocery purchases at the same time. Scary fact: Tesco handles 1 in every 4 bottles of wine sold in the UK as an “off” sale, according to the Daily Telegraph on Saturday!