Champagne: No shortage now!
It's a year later, and a few voices crying in the wilderness are still out there trying to explain to the rest of us that the real Millennium doesn't start until Jan. 1, 2001.
But the hype has ended, the world's supply of Champagne is secure, and the excellent news for wine lovers is that sparkling wine prices in many parts of the world are surprisingly low as the holiday season approaches.
That's apparently because distributors and retailers in many cities overbought for the rush that never happened, resulting in a glut for 2001. Accordingly, high-end sparkling wine prices are dropping around the world.
Last week, correspondents in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group report, government-run shops in British Columbia, Canada, reduced many sparkling wine prices 50 percent to "blow out" the excess; at the same time, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario had 1989 Heidsieck Monopole marked down from last year's CDN$90 to $60. Prices of luxury New Zealand sparklers were lower than last year at shops in Wellington and Auckland, and in the UK, reported Peter May, "Retailers massively overstocked, which means that all this year Champagne has been sold at huge discounts. Supermarkets were shifting the stuff at half price. ... And I'm still getting mailers and seeing adverts for 20 percent off, buy one get one free etc."
Similar reports of inventory excess and fire-sale pricing came in from many parts of the U.S. "Sparkling wine sales are off, deals are to be had," observed Chuck Smith, a wine retailer in Lexington, Va.
Local pricing may vary - some retailers report having no reason to cut prices this year. But so many shops have surpluses that it shouldn't be hard to find a good deal, like the $25 Pol Roger I enjoyed in Louisville last week. So if you want to celebrate New Year's with something special in the way of a bubbly, you may be in luck this year.
For more information on Champagne, click to Champagnes.com, the official site of the Champagne Wines Information Bureau, which offers basic information in English with a bit of a marketing spin. For more detailed information on Champagne, try the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne site, which may be read in French, English and German.
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Pale gold, with a frothy mousse that subsides to a persistent fountain of tiny bubbles. Fresh, juicy apples in the aroma, framed by an appetizing whiff of milk chocolate that I often note in sparkling wines made with Pinot Noir in the blend. Full-bodied and toasty, as I expect of Pol Roger, finishing crisp, fresh and clean. A very fine Champagne at a price that, by the lofty standard of the genre, is more than reasonable for a celebratory occasion. U.S. importer: Frederick Wildman and Sons Ltd., NYC. (Dec. 5, 2000)
FOOD MATCH: Fine Champagne complements a wide variety of foods, and in this case made an amiable match with a meatless casserole of cardoons (a celery-like Mediterranean vegetable) baked with potatoes and Gruyere cheese.
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Vol. 2, No. 47, Dec. 11, 2000