The leading country in this pack is undoubtedly Russia, growing just over 24% to 1,342,393 bottles in 2011. For Pol Roger’s Laurent d’Harcourt, Russia represents the one truly credible BRIC market that is important for Champagne.
“Russia was an important market in the past,” he notes, “and they like to party and they like to open bottles; it’s not like that in China.”
Recent battles against alcoholism in Russia have however created an atmosphere where sales of alcohol (namely beer and vodka) are being restricted and minimum prices considered.
How far this would trouble Russia’s elite (the estimated 2% of the population that controls 70%-80% of the country’s assets), who are the key market for Champagne, is, of course, another question.
However, countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania should not be written out of the picture (Poland was classed as a “hidden gem” in a recent Rabobank) and with their combined weight the overall market in Eastern Europe grows to 1,922,314 bottles.
Once markets such as Estonia, the Ukraine, the other Baltic states, Hungary and the Balkans etc are added, then the overall market eases over the two million bottle mark.
This is not hugely impressive, you might think, as it takes nearly 20 countries to match even the Netherlands.
Perfectly true, but in terms of potential then Eastern Europe can be said to offer much more. What is more, all of them (barring Moldova) are in growth to some degree.
Often the small bases lead to quite dramatic figures, but the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania all showed quite respectable growth rates of 4.9%, 15% and 8% respectively.
As d’Harcourt concludes: “Many of these countries have a wine culture which they are trying to recapture and they’re much quicker to learn about wine and train sommeliers and specialists and so on. Their economies are not flamboyant but I believe more in their future development than I do in some others.”
Published in The Drinks Business, 28.01.13 — read original