Champagne shortage: It’s not going to be a jolly Bolly Christmas

Rumour has it there’s not enough sparkling wine to go around. What’s going on?

Buy early if you want to be sure of having your favourite brand of champagne this Christmas and New Year.

Buy early if you want to be sure of having your favourite brand of champagne this Christmas and New Year.

 

Traditionally, champagne sales soar in December as we party with friends, celebrate Christmas with family, and ring in the new year. This year, however, there have been persistent rumours of a champagne shortage, with some importers running out of some of Ireland’s favourite brands.

The problem, where there is one, appears to be of massive growth. “While some wines did well in the early part of lockdown, champagne and other sparkling wine sales plummeted, so the authorities in Champagne cut permitted yields for 2020,” according to Richard Moriarty of Bollinger agent Findlater WS.

“Then, in the second half of last year, demand went into massive growth and has continued since. It was a perfect storm of new markets, demand spiking and not enough stock. In order to come back on stream, it depends how much stock you have maturing. Bollinger age their wines for over three years and are sticking to that. To get back to normal will take a few years. Bollinger haven’t compromised on quality, it’s part of their DNA, so they have been hit harder.”

“There is a shortage of some sort everywhere,” David Gleave, managing director of importer Liberty Wines says. “2021 has been a record year for shipments, with the biggest growth coming from the well-known houses. Champagne is not something you can suddenly create. It takes five to six months before shipping and there have been delays with capsules, labels and cartons.

“Unless you took a gamble in April, you are going to be a bit short this Christmas. We talked to our suppliers - Charles Heidsieck and Piper-Heidsieck. We told them we thought things were good and they were bullish about other market too, so we have sufficient stocks for existing customers.”

“It’s not affecting every brand,” says Lynne Coyle, wine director at O’Briens. “Bollinger has been badly affected here, in the UK, and elsewhere. Other brands are short too, but not as much. Our grower champagnes are in stock, as are Charles Heidsieck, Lanson, Perrier Jouet, and Laurent Perrier. We have increased the number of promotions for December, and we have stocked up on other brands. My advice is, if you are after a specific brand, buy early rather than later, as it may run out of stock, and a shortage of one brand can impact on another. However we have plenty of stock.”

Own-label supermarket Champagnes are likely to be less badly affected as they are aged for a shorter period, although there may be fewer price promotions as overall prices are likely to increase. “Grape prices are going up” says David Gleave. “The cost of dry goods, energy and transport too, so prices will inevitably go up; we are in a year when most prices are going to go up.”

So while it appears some of our favourite brands may be unavailable, or in short supply, and we may have to pay a little more, we are unlikely to run out of champagne this Christmas.