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Predicted Champagne Shortage Not Widespread After All

Ryan Isaac
Posted: December 29, 1999

Looking for some last-minute Champagne? If you live in one of the major wine markets in the United States, you're still in luck.

The much-hyped New Year's Champagne shortage -- predicted by many Champagne houses, distributors and retailers anticipating bigger sales as people celebrated the new millennium -- has not plagued the major markets, though some cities are feeling the squeeze. Reports from New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles retailers indicate that there is enough bubbly to satisfy all revelers.

"We've got plenty of Champagne left on the shelves," said Andrew McMurray, a store manager at Zachys Wine & Liquor in Scarsdale, N.Y. He estimated that the store has been selling approximately 100 cases of bubbly each day for the past two weeks. "Some of the smaller houses and older vintages are disappearing," McMurray reported, but he added he has plenty of Veuve Clicquot, Perrier-Joukt and Mokt & Chandon to make it through the end of the year.

"By far, it has been the briskest holiday sales for Champagne we've ever seen," said McMurray. "It's safe to say they're up 25 percent this year."

At Sam's Wine & Spirits in Chicago, store employees can't stock the shelves quickly enough. Charles Stanfield, head of the Champagne department, said, "The day after Thanksgiving, we stocked 140 cases on the shelves. It's already been replenished." But even though Sam's has been selling up to 50 cases each day, he isn't worried about running out. "There are many good Champagnes out there that we can buy and enjoy," he said. "I am not panicking."

In the nation's capital, the word "surplus" was uttered, and not in conjunction with budgets. At MacArthur's in Washington, D.C., Champagne buyer Joe Kluchinsky said, "If anything, I might have a little too much of the high-end stuff." Kluchinsky has been stockpiling his supply throughout the year, and so far has only run out of non-vintage Bollinger and Louis Roederer. However, he said, the store has "plenty" of Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger and Pol Roger.

The story is quite different in St. Louis, where the Champagne blues have hit Brown Derby. Glenn Bardgett, the store's wine advisor, heard reports that New York City had excess Champagne and wishes that the same were true in the Midwest. "But that's just not true here," he said. "The predicted shortage, at least in terms of St. Louis, is true." Bardgett recently received two cases of Dom Pirignon, the first he's seen of it since Labor Day.

Knowing that he couldn't rely on staples like Mumm, Mokt & Chandon and Piper-Heidsieck, Bardgett sought out small estates in Champagne and found great success in the $30 per bottle market. "People are definitely spending more for products this year," he noted, adding that bottles costing more than $20 are selling as well as the $10 to $20 bottles usually do.

Bardgett attributes these sales to the popularity of celebrating the millennium with small, intimate dinner parties, where hosts have chosen to feature quality Champagnes. Kluchinsky noticed the same phenomenon in Washington, D.C.

Regardless of current supplies, Bardgett spoke for all wine retailers when he concluded, "It's been a great season: great wine sales and great Champagne sales."

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Read our past report on this subject:

  • Oct. 15, 1999
    Champagne's Y2K Problem

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