Champagne price outlook unlikely to sparkle on customers´ tongues

Wine and champagne will become up to 15 per cent more expensive next year, a branch representative has warned.Gerhard Wohlmuth of the wine and spirits trade department at the Federal Economy Chamber (WKO) said yesterday (Mon) customers must brace for a five to 15 per cent increase of prices for wine and champagne next year compared to current rates.Wohlmuth explained dramatic harvest declines this year have put vintners across Austria into a difficult position. “Between 2.4 and 2.6 million hectolitres of grapes are normally cultivated. This year, we registered only 1.75 million hectolitres,” the WKO official explained referring to a season affected by heatwaves and devastating thunderstorms.Market analysts have said the developments will mean Austrian wine salesmen will fall behind in competing with Italian and French businessmen. Especially low-priced foreign products will be sold more often next year than in 2010, according to predictions.Austrians purchased an overall 22 million bottles of sparkling wine this year.Domestic champagne producers like Schlumberger, which managed to increase its turnover in the first half of the current 2011/2011 business year (April to September 2010) by 4.4 per cent to 95 million Euros, do best ahead of Fasching (carnival), Christmas and New Year’s Eve.News that wine and champagne retail prices will climb comes on the heels of announcements that customers must brace themselves for higher bread prices due to the bad harvest this year and a strong increase of flour trade rates.The Salzburg Bakers’ Association promised bakeries will try to keep price increases “as minimal as possible”, while federal statistics authority Statistik Austria said rye harvest rates dropped by a whopping 12 per cent year on year to 161,000 tons in 2010. The cultivation of wheat however remained at a steady level at 1.5 million tons.Overall harvest volumes dropped by 6.5 per cent year on year to around 4.5 million tons this year, the agency said earlier this month.Meanwhile, shops across the country hope for a nice ending of the year as the majority of Austrians is expected to buy wine or champagne but also lucky charms and snacks to celebrate on New Year’s Eve (31 December) with friends and family.Viennese Economy Chamber (WKW) chief Brigitte Jank said yesterday: “The last day of the year traditionally serves up a turnover of around 55 million Euros for the Viennese retail trade sector.”Pollster Makam said women living in Vienna will spend an average 40 Euros on products for their parties, while men are expected to invest two Euros more.