Buy Your Bubbly Now

Demand for the best champagne is up and soon prices will be following

Stock up on your millennium champagne now because you’ll pay to procrastinate. Champagne makers say there is plenty of the bubbly to go around this New Year, but the shortage will be in the type of champagne you choose to drink.

The demand for premium champagne is at an all-time high, and is already getting harder for stores to stock. "We’re almost out of Dom Perignon, and my knees are bloody from begging for more, " Christian Navarro of Wally’s in Los Angeles told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. By December Navarro expects to see a 50percent markup in price.

The high-end brand champagnes are in demand this year and you have buy now if you plan to celebrate the New Year with the good stuff. However, if you just want something bubbly in your glass so you can make a New Year toast then there’s plenty of options out there.

Some wine makers are taking advantage of demand and getting into the champagne business for the first time. For champagne connoisseurs this means you have to be careful what you buy. Many little-known brands are barely worth their low prices because they were inexpertly made and rushed to the market after just 15 months fermentation. Others are great bargains, priced low because of competition and overstocking of the lower-priced brands.

In the United States, champagne is usually reserved for special occasions and last year’s sales hit 17 million bottles. This year the U.S. is expected to buy almost 40 million bottles of bubbly so winemakers will be cashing in. In Las Vegas alone, sales are enormous, as every casino is having a party and every New Year’s party includes champagne.

With so much demand well-known top end champagne makers are sticking to selling to their current clients and not branching out much. They are basically rewarding those who have purchased their product for years. Those winemakers say they couldn’t empty their caves this New Year and just had to choose who to sell to and who to leave off the client list.

If many Americans know about Dom Perignon they may discover some new quality champagne this year, since finding the well-known brand is getting tougher. The marketing director at Ruinart wineries expects a lot of people to discover his champagne this year. Ruinart has been around since the 1700’s and is the oldest house in champagne. It’s not as well known as Dom Perignon because 85% of its production stays in France.

The French have been refining the champagne making business for centuries. It is a slow and exacting method. Grapes are handpicked so red skins do not color the white juice inside. Fermentation is done deep under the ground. Normally, a cellarmaster blends wines of different years to suit a house’s distinctive taste. If a year is particularly good, 1990 for example, the wine is then bottled separately as a vintage champagne.

DATE: 11/2/99

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