"Last year the UK imported 34.2m bottles of champagne while the US imported just 20.5m"by Barry Smith / April 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
Figures released in March by the Comité Interprofessionnel Vin Champagne showed that the UK continues to be the largest Champagne importer in the world; a position they have held since 1996. This is a striking fact in the current economic climate of austerity. It shows just how resilient the luxury market is. For Champagne, more than any other wine, is associated with celebration, making it the wine of choice to commemorate birthdays, marriages, graduations and promotions. But there are now plenty of alternatives; from Prosecco and Cava, to the sparkling wines of the South of England. So how will Champagne maintain its grip?
It’s a question that was exercising the Comité Champagne during its campaign to secure world heritage status for the Champagne region from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, as they did in July 2015. The award not only recognises the history of the region but urges the growers and producers to conserve and enhance the legacy of Champagne, and that means finding new ways to entice consumers in an increasingly crowded market. So how have they been setting about this task?
Intriguingly, for such a traditional wine region, the Comité Champagne has embraced the digital age. We usually think of the digital world as furthest from the world of wine, restricted as it is—for the time being—to vision and hearing, and unable, therefore, to capture the senses of touch, taste and smell that make up our tasting experience. However, there is more to the experience of wine than simply tasting it, and tasting is often enhanced by having some sense of how a wine was produced and where it came from. This is where digital tools and resources can aid the experience of tasting.
Perhaps the most visually dazzling of these digital tools is 360˚ Champagne—an augmented reality tour of the region, where we glide across the vineyards and the villages before entering the cellars and surveying the Champagne houses. I first experienced this impressive short film wearing an Oculus Rift headset, and its immersive nature makes you feel you have been to the region. In addition, there is a new e-learning platform, with the slightly daunting name, Champagne Campus. It is stratified into three levels of learning for what the French call novices, enthusiasts and lovers. Available on Mac, PC, smartphone and tablet,…