It seems we can't drink enough Champagne.
For the 10th year running, the UK has emerged as the leading export market for Champagne - by a long shot. Latest figures, out today, have the UK a staggering 16 million bottles ahead of the USA, Champagne's second-biggest market.
We imported nearly 37 million bottles between January and December last year, which represents a 5.19% increase on the previous year - and the trend looks set to continue.
The Champagne Information Bureau, which held its annual tasting in London this week, puts its sustained success in the UK down to the country's economic growth, coupled with Britain's affinity with Champagne, rooted in our history.
Champagne Information Bureau director Françoise Peretti has spotted some new fashions emerging. "This year we've seen a new trend as export figures show a dramatic increase in large-sized bottles, and an increase in vintage Champagne." She also credits the nationwide hospitality boom for further driving our thirst.
Joëlle Marti-Baron wouldn't disagree with that. The wine director of London's Great Eastern hotel, has contributed significantly to those figures - she sold nearly 12,000 bottles of house bubbly last year in her four restaurants.
Marti-Baron puts her buoyant sales (she holds the current Gosset trophy for Champagne List of the Year) down to her team's enthusiastic sales initiatives, which include a monthly-changing, three-strong selection offered by the glass and encourages drinkers to try lesser-known brands from smaller producers.
She also credits her younger, more open-minded customers for increased sales. "They treat Champagne as an everyday drink, rather than for special occasions like the older generation does," she added.
By Fiona Sims
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