Sparkling wine sales are accelerating at the retail tier with the December holidays in full swing. Retailers are promoting Champagne and other sparkling wines on the radio, in emails, across social media, and with big in-store displays. Champagne consumption is also being fueled by a free-spirited, carpe diem mentality in defiant response to the Covid-19 pandemic. “There is no better time to celebrate, because we are alive,” says Christian Navarro, president and principal at Los Angeles-based Wally’s Wines & Spirits. “If I have Champagne or sparkling wine, I will drink it. Tomorrow may never come, so let’s have fun.”
At Mid Valley Wine & Liquor in Newburgh, New York, sparkling wine sales are growing. “We’ve seen a sales bump in bubbly. In particular we’ve seen a nice increase in sales for higher-end Champagnes and not just the big producers,” says store manager Lindy Steele. “Sparkling sales across the board are continuing upwards, particularly Champagne. It seems odd that more people are drinking Champagne right now than ever.”
Overall, sparkling wine volume sales are up roughly 30% this year at Wally’s, even though total dollar sales for the category are down 10%. “The fact is, the high end is gone right now,” Navarro says. “But the number of bottles we are selling is up. We’re just missing that cream off the top.”
Wally’s top-selling Champagnes by dollar sales include 2010 Dom Perignon Brut ($185 a 750-ml.), 2002 Dom Perignon P2 Plenitude Brut ($460 a 750-ml.), Ruinart Perrier Cuvee Rose ($75 a 750-ml.), 2008 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin La Grande Dame Brut ($200), and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut ($65 a 750-ml.).
Leading non-Champagne sparklers at Wally’s are Roederer Estate Brut ($23 a 750-ml.), Schramsberg Blanc De Noirs ($36 a 750-ml), and 2018 Bisol Prosecco Crede ($21 a 750-ml.). “We’re seeing a number of people starting to investigate other options like Prosecco, Cava, and domestic sparkling wines,” Navarro says.
Mid Valley’s Champagne sales leaders include Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial ($45 a 750-ml.), Veuve Clicquot Brut ($47 a 750-ml.), and Dom Perignon ($180 a 750-ml.). “We’ve done a great job showing customers Champagne plays well with many different cuisines,” Steele says. “Consumers are starting to appreciate Champagne as a wine and realizing it’s not just for celebrations.”
Top-selling non-Champagne sparklers at Mid Valley include Mionetto Prosecco Brut ($12 a 750-ml.), Korbel Brut ($12 a 750-ml.), and Freixenet Brut ($10 a 750-ml.). “Stack them high and watch them fly,” Steele says. “We’ve done a lot of email promotions as well as radio spots.”
Despite the early surge, Navarro anticipates sparkling wine sales will level off because of social distancing and the absence of big celebrations. “We should see Champagne numbers flattening a little because there are not going to be giant holiday parties with people blowing big bottles of Champagne and spraying it and all the things we expect to see on a New Year’s Eve,” he says.
The pandemic and the tariff issues on foreign beverage alcohol also continues squeezing the distribution pipeline. “We’ve definitely seen some serious supply issues with more to come,” Steele says. “For the first time in 60 years, we ran out of both Veuve Clicquot Brut ($45 a 750-ml.) and Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial ($47) before Thanksgiving and we’re still waiting for inventory with no estimate time of arrival.”