By Mary Schwager, GalTime's Consumer Watchdog
Price of Champagne is RisingIt's enough to burst your bubble -- the price of Champagne is going up in 2012. So what's behind this not-so-sparkling price spike? And more importantly, what can consumers to... besides stocking up?
Wine.Com's Gwendolyn Osborn is giving GalTime the inside scoop on how to get your Champagne "fix"... but not fizzle out your bank account.
GT: What's driving this price increase?
Wine.Com's Gwendolyn Osborn: No one likes to hear that prices are going up. And the Champagne producers probably didn't like that the prices of grapes went up in 2011! But there was, in fact, an increase in grape prices in 2011, and since most Champagne producers buy grapes from growers, those higher prices in grapes will be reflected in the resulting Champagne they produce.
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GT: When do you expect the spike to hit? Before New Year's Eve?
Wine.Com's Gwendolyn Osborn: Most likely the price increase will not hit until after the new year. Retailers offer lots of discounts this time of year, so you'll probably notice the higher prices next year.
GT: Now just so everyone knows-- let's clarify some champagne 101 fun facts here: Though Champagne is used sometimes as a generic term, it has a very specific meaning. Can you fill us in on that?
Wine.Com's Gwendolyn Osborn: Champagne is a region, so if a sparkling wine does not come from the region of Champagne, it is not actual Champagne. Though it was used as a generic term for some time, kind of like Kleenex, Champagne producers and the region itself cracked down on the broad use of the term and now many laws prohibit the use of "Champagne" on sparkling wine labels that are not, in fact, Champagne. So know that true Champagne can only come from Champagne. Everything else is sparkling wine.
GT: Will the price increase hit all areas of Champagne?
Wine.Com's Gwendolyn Osborn: Hard to say. There are some that may try to keep prices low to stay more competitive, but most likely it will be more universal. Producers may have not raised prices in the past few years because of the weak economy, and they may not be able to hold back much longer.
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GT: What are some money saving ways you can still drink your bubbly-- even if the cost of your favorite kind bubbles out of your price range?
Wine.Com's Gwendolyn Osborn: In Champagne, look for deals and savings now- stock up while there are great discounts! Also, look to producers you may not have heard of as they might not be quite as expensive as the big guys. I just discovered Canard-Duchene and their rose is so delicious, and it's under $50. So try something new and look to other regions.
GT: Can you recommend some lower cost but still very good Champagnes?
Wine.Com's Gwendolyn Osborn: Yes! Canard-Duchene, as I mentioned above, makes some great brut and rose. Not cheap, but under $50! Thienot is another producer I recently tried and very much enjoyed. Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck are typically under $40 and very consistent and delicious. Wine.com actually has a great deal on Nicolas Feuillatte Blue Label Brut, which is just $29.99. Super delicate and delicious Champagne.
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GT: And what are some alternatives to Champagne?
Wine.Com's Gwendolyn Osborn: The two most affordable are cava (from Spain) and Prosecco (though those prices are rising, too). Cava is typically dry and crisp, while Prosecco can have riper fruit flavors. Cristalino, a Cava at about $8 is one of our best sellers every year as it's just delicious. Not as complex as Champagne, but delightful and with plenty of bubbles! Isn't that what we're looking for, after all?
In France, Alsace and Burgundy make great "cremant," which is the term used for sparkling wine in French regions other than Champagne. A few Champagne houses also make wine in other regions, bringing their craft but not the high prices. Roederer Estate and Domaine Carneros are two in California that are consistently delicious.
And if you're looking for something very different, we love Gruet, a sparkling wine from New Mexico! Seems odd, but this is a family from Champagne who has been making delicious wine out of New Mexico for some time. It's the right price, and delicious bubbly.
What are your favorite Champagnes? Do you have any lower cost alternatives? Tell us about them!