French champagne makers stockpiling in UK to avoid 'Christmas crisis' after Brexit

French champagne makers stockpiling in UK to avoid 'Christmas crisis' after Brexit

Published at 1:42pm 12th September 2019. (Updated at 4:23pm 12th September 2019)

Whatever hardships a no-deal Brexit might inflict on Britain, a champagne drought will not be one of them, according to French makers of the drink.

Producers of the sparkling wine say they have been stockpiling large numbers of bottles in the UK ahead of potential disruption if the country leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October.

Britain is champagne's largest export market, ahead of the United States, with a share of 17% and the UK imported a volume equal to 26.8 million bottles in 2018.

Champagne makers' trade body CIVC has not revealed how many extra bottles have been shipped to the UK, but spokesman Thibaut Le Mailloux said: "Growers and houses have overstocked in Great Britain to fill a possible border closure if it were to occur."

Wine critic Antoine Gerbelle said there was enough champagne stockpiled to meet British demand for at least a year.

"There won't be a champagne crisis at Christmas," he said.

The president of French champagne maker Tattinger said "the English have loved champagne for 300 years and, Brexit or no Brexit, they will continue to like it".

Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger said: "Champagne is a very traditional product, a very traditional drink, which the British adore.

"They contributed a great deal to the sense of romance and the glory of champagne and, knowing the British character as I do, none of that will change.

"Honestly I can't say that I am very anxious about it. If there's to be a Brexit, well I'd like to drink a glass of champagne with Boris Johnson to look to the future together."

Smaller producers could be more exposed to Brexit than big houses as they face tough competition from cheaper sparkling wines such as Italy's prosecco and Spain's cava, which have caused a regular fall in champagne exports for more than 10 years.

Taittinger has also said it is not worried about a drop in demand if workers in London's City financial district quit the UK after Brexit.

The company's director general Damien Le Sueur said: "The big banker, the big trader, who doesn't have a job in the City will go to Frankfurt, Paris, New York. The bottle he will not drink in the UK, he will drink elsewhere."

Pub chain Wetherspoons, whose founder Tim Martin campaigned for Brexit, said earlier this year it was cutting the number of EU-sourced drinks and replacing them with British ones in the run up to Brexit.

French champagne and German beers will be substituted for alternatives from the UK and other countries outside the bloc, the company said.

On Wednesday, the government released documents revealing its "reasonable worst case planning assumptions" for the UK leaving the EU on 31 October without a deal.

The five pages published on the government website warn of a rise in public disorder, delays lasting three months at Channel crossings, "significant" electricity price rises and impacts on medicine and food supplies.

The documents were released after opposition MPs defeated the government in the House of Commons on Monday to order their publication.

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