Experts predict Champagne shortages will continue beyond the holiday season.
Elva Etienne/Getty Images
- Champagne may be hard to find for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
- The industry has been struck by supply chain issues, increased demand, and extreme weather.
- Some industry experts estimate that these issues may not resolve until 2025.
It may be more difficult than usual to find Champagne for your New Year’s celebration this year.
A combination of the pandemic, supply chain issues, a massive uptick in demand, and extreme weather events has led to shortage in Champagne this season, and experts say it’s just the beginning. Production limits set in 2020, at the height of pandemic lockdowns, will mean less Champagne in 2023 and beyond, Wine Enthusiast’s Hillary Richard reports.
In 2020, as the pandemic swept the globe, the Champagne industry saw a sharp drop in sales as restaurants and bars closed and consumers saw less cause to celebrate. Sales tumbled 18% by volume in 2020, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the trade industry group that represents the region, reported in January. CIVC estimated at the time that total champagne sales dropped from 300 million bottles in 2019 to 245 million in 2020.
But toward the end of 2020, sales began to rebound as life returned to some semblance of normalcy (the presidential election also led to a bump in bubbly sales). While it’s too soon to tell how the category fared in 2021, it seems sales have exploded. Industry experts are anticipating that Champagne sales this year will surpass pre-pandemic levels, CNBC’s Amanda Macias reported.
“If I have to guess, I think that consumers are ready to celebrate even just the little things in life,” Natalie Pavlatos, a spokeswoman for the Champagne Bureau, USA, told CNBC.
But like many products, including toys and artificial Christmas trees, Champagne has been caught in supply chain snarls. Cases of bubbly are imported from France, and distributors have been forced to place orders well in advance and navigate shipping delays.
The issue appears to be hitting high-end brands the most right now. Moet & Chandon, Dom Perignon, and Veuve Clicquot are sold out in many markets, and retailers are concerned about selling out of bubbly altogether. Alcohol delivery service Drizly recently surveyed 500 beverage retailers across the US and found that 80% are at least slightly concerned about running out of Champagne during this holiday season.
If you can find Champagne, there’s a good chance it costs more than it used to. Prices for alcoholic beverages have risen across the board, with US Labor Department data from earlier this month showing a 1% year-over-year increase in the cost of alcohol thanks to the supply chain challenges that aren’t expected to abate anytime soon.
We could see Champagne shortages for years to come
Production limits set at the height of the pandemic lockdowns have contributed to the season’s Champagne shortage.
FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP via Getty Images
Even once the holidays pass, we’re likely to continue seeing Champagne shortages.
The CIVC, the Champagne trade group, sets limits on production each year, dictating how much of growers’ crops can be harvested, how much should be held back to create multi-vintage blends down the road, and how much will be used to make Champagne vinegar.
In 2020, at the height of pandemic lockdowns, CIVC set the production limit at roughly 25% less than the year prior. Champagne must age for at least 15 months — longer for higher-end versions — which means the limits set in 2020 are likely to have a domino effect, Wine Enthusiast reports.
Plus, this year’s Champagne harvest was seriously damaged due to extreme weather including heat, frost, and severe rains. According to the CIVC data, frost took out 30% of the region’s 2021 crops, mildew destroyed another 25% or 30%, and hail damaged over 1,200 acres of vineyards. One grower in the Champagne region estimated that her family’s vineyard had lost 90% of its grapes this year as a result.
Gabe Barkley, CEO of wine and spirits importer MHW, told Wine Enthusiast that these issues will impact the industry for years to come.
“We do anticipate that reduced production in recent vintages will affect the market for years,” he said, “with 2023 through 2025 being the most impacted by volume.”