More Champagne To China, Less For Us

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - September 07, 2011
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It may be too early for predictions.

No, I’m not talking about the 2012 presidential election. I usually do my regular predictions for the next year in the month of December just before the new year begins, but I have seen some recent trends glaring at me that you should know about.

First of all, there will be a Champagne shortage this holiday season. You probably heard this surrounding the turn of the millennium in 1999. Everyone thought that the whole world was going to be drinking Champagne and all the computers were going to crash at the stroke of midnight. But when you went to the shelves, they were stocked full of dozens of Champagnes that you are accustomed to seeing. I fell into that same fear from all the warnings. Well, this year it is not about hype and marketing. This is real.

It is only September, and I already know of two major Champagne houses that have already announced cuts in allocations to Hawaii. I can’t name them, but they are the two of the largest Champagne houses. But this doesn’t stop at the top. Even the small family estates, some called “Grower Champagnes” that produce everything they make from grapes they grow for themselves, are already becoming short in supply. I spoke to one of my importer friends and he says that Champagne sales have really come back on fire since their doldrums of a couple of years ago. Certain cuvees that I normally am able to get from him are already sold out for the rest of the year! And he laughed when I asked for some Rose Champagne. His response was that the Rose was sold out in July.

So where is all the bubbly being popped? Who is doing all the celebrating? Aren’t we still in a recession?

Take a guess. It is the same country that makes this computer I’m writing my column on and probably the glasses you are reading with: China. Oh, yes, the Chinese love for wine is growing by leaps and bounds. And like moths to a flame, the worldly Champenois have filled container loads to fill the glasses of those thirsty for the wonderful elixir that is Champagne. This combined with “smaller” harvests in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 make for a perfect storm that will leave Hawaii “dry” (pun intended) with less Champagne.

On another note, what happened to “brand” Australia? Outside of Yellow Tail and Mollydooker, Australian wines have all but disappeared from the shelves. I read a good piece on this phenomenon in Wine Spectator magazine detailing the decline of the Australian wine market because of overproduction, deflated and over-inflated pricing, and overexposure. But Australia still has plenty to offer the world. Shiraz is still a noble varietal that appeals to many. I, for one, hope they make a comeback. When not overripe, Shiraz can carry a unique character that belongs with the great wines of the world. Just look at Penfolds’ Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace. Those wines are still benchmarks in anyone’s book.

Recommendations: NV Delamotte Brut Champagne ($55) Mmmm good! This is so elegant; it tickles your palate with bright citrus and deep minerals. It is deceivingly tasty; you don’t have to concentrate on it to enjoy it. It is just plain delicious. 2009 Aramis Shiraz/Cabernet ($14) VALUE ALERT! Thick, concentrated, mocha, ripe red fruit and amplitude that puts a smile in your palate (and wallet).

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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