Champagne sales bubble near record highs

The strong interest reflects increased interest in luxury goods and a willingness to spend more per bottle.

By Kim Peterson Dec 14, 2011 1:39PM
Image: New Year celebration (© Stan Fellerman/Corbis)The champagne industry could be approaching record sales this year -- another sign that the rich have recovered economically.

The French champagne industry shipped 192 million bottles by the end of September, The Wall Street Journal reports. The sector counts on the holidays for a good chunk of its sales, and expectations are high that shipments will approach the record 339 million bottles seen in 2007.

That's quite a bounce back from a dreary 2009. Champagne shipments dropped below 300 million bottles that year, the Journal reports. We're talking about bottles made with grapes from France's Champagne region -- the only place that can give its product the "champagne" name.

The strong interest in champagne is a boost for LVMH Moet Hennessey Luis Vuitton (LVMUY), which owns several champagne labels. The stock, however, is down about 17% this year.

Champagne sales are booming in the U.S., up nearly 22% in the first half of the year from the same period in 2010, the Associated Press reports. One wine expert told the AP that people are now spending more -- as much as $30 to $50 -- on a bottle of wine. One of Wine.com's top sellers of the year, for example, was the $45 Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label.

Champagne isn't the only hot seller this year. California wine exports are on track to set a record. The value of wine exports in the first 10 months of this year already matches last year's record of $1.14 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times. The weak dollar has helped.

Most California wine goes to Europe, but surging demand from China has also contributed to the growth.

Increased champagne sales come as the luxury-goods sector ends a great year. Sales at U.S. luxury stores are estimated to climb 7.5% this holiday from a year earlier, Bloomberg reports. Other retailers will see flat to slow sales growth.

Asia has been a main driver of the luxury market. Prada said its Asian sales (excluding Japan) rose 45% in the fiscal quarter ended Oct. 31, The New York Times reports.


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