Champagne shortage revisited
As the calendar winds down toward the most unusual New Year's in many a lifetime -- the first time in a thousand years that the calendar will begin with a digit other than "1" -- there's still talk of a possible Champagne shortage as millions of celebrants around the world uncork bottles of bubbly in celebration.
At this point, however, most of the evidence of a shortage seems to be found more at the distribution level than among retailers or consumers.
I spent Saturday at the huge Party Source store in Northern Kentucky, near Cincinnati, one of the largest and best stocked wine shops in the U.S., where wine managers Mary Dorr and Gary Boswell said some of the distributors of major Champagne labels have been able to deliver less product this autumn than the store had ordered -- in some cases cutting back orders from 180 twelve-bottle cases to as few as 110. In neighboring Ohio, they said, some shops reportedly weren't able to get some major Champagnes at all.
But on the consumer side, demand doesn't appear to be picking up yet. Dorr and Boswell have stocked their shelves with hundreds of bottles of Champagnes and other sparkling wines, at sale prices literally ranging from $5 to $1,500. In the opening days of the sale, however, crowds were sparse, leading to the reasonable conclusion that most people aren't going to start thinking about Champagne for New Year's until the last few days before the holiday.
My advice remains unchanged from the article I wrote on this topic back in February: Shortages of luxury Champagnes are possible, especially at individual wine shops in the last weeks before the New Year. The industry certainly shouldn't have any trouble supplying the demand for everyday bubbly, but if you want to celebrate with something special, I suggest stocking up now.
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Outstanding Champagne bargain
If you're looking for a particularly good buy, however, for New Year's or any other occasion, here's one that Dorr strongly recommends; and I agree.
Champagne Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée Sainte-Anne Brut ($24.99)
FOOD MATCH: Demonstrating Champagne's versatility with food, a fine match with roast chicken.
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Vol. 1, No. 40, Oct. 25, 1999