August 18, 2016
A Serious Champagne Shortage Is Coming, But Don't Panic, Yet

Yes, it's true that a Champagne shortage is going to hit us for the 2016 season, and there is going to be some scrambling in order for restaurants, clubs and caterers to get their hands on their favorite bubbly. This is more than a French disaster, but a big problem for anyone who loves their Champagne, and particularly those who like to buy it by the case. After all, what would a celebration be without a Champagne toast? But what caused this problem, and is there anything that can be done?

Wine continues to grow in popularity in the United States, where you can now find case clubs, wine tasting classes, and stores the size of grocery stores where the public can peruse the aisles with a grocery cart to stock up. And now, says the Inquisitr, an amusement park or a Disney World for wine lovers has opened in Bordeaux, France, called "City of Wine," where there are rides, shops, tastings, and a museum that is all things wine. "City of Wine" is expecting over 450k visitors in its first year.

But what is causing this shortage that has lovers of the bubbles running to their local liquor store or wine shop? The problem is a challenging growing season, according to experts. Eater says that a late spring frost significantly reduced production in the region that is home to 25 percent of the Champagne vineyards, followed by severe hail storms and what is being called a "mildew epidemic." All of these problems have reduced the yield significantly.

Many people call any wine with bubbles Champagne, but actual Champagne is from the Champagne region of France. Everything else is sparkling wine (including Prosecco).


But do Champagne vintners have a Plan B if there is a bad year? The answer is yes, but it is a band-aid on the problem, because it involves Champagne vintners having to dig into their reserves. But Charles Philipponnat of Champagne Philipponnat warns in order to produce enough wine for the 2016 season, "growers and houses will have to dig heavily in their reserves."

This will mean that the following year, reserves will be somewhat depleted, and it might take several good seasons to build the reserves back up.

Of course, the Champagne region has known harsh weather and bad seasons before, but Decanter says that never as bad as the current crop, which with late frost and rot has been the worst since 1956. That late frost hit the Côte des Bar region especially hard (the location with 25 percent of the necessary grapes for all of the Champagne in the world).

But what is it that the late frost does to the grape vines? Later in the season, there are bud on the plants, and a late frost can cause something called "bud break," which is exactly what it sounds like, the buds on the plants freeze and break off. Jean Pierre Fleury, winemaker at Champagne Fleury in Courteron, says that this event caused him to lose 75 percent of his potential harvest.

Following the late frost came severe hailstorms with golfball sized hail which continued to damage the buds and even the established vines themselves. While vintners were scrambling to survey the damage, they noticed that then mildew and grey rot had kicked in. Grey rot was first noticed in July, but it spread quickly, and almost 65 percent of the vineyards showing at least some minor grey rot damage. But the biggest and most critical statistics come from Magister, which is a regional wine authority.
"Magister, an agronomic agency which monitors a large selection of growers and houses vineyards, confirmed that 99% of the vineyards monitored had mildew symptoms. 34% of the vineyards had more than 10% loss in yield due to mildew, and in 4% of the vineyards more than half the crop has been affected."
But Mon Dieu! What to do about an impending Champagne shortage? Bustle suggests some preparation for the coming Champagne shortage. First, start stocking up on Champagne. You can buy Champagne and store it for later, or for that proverbial rainy day. Non-vintage champagne can be stored unopened for three to four years, and Vintage Champagne can be kept even longer.

Maybe it is time to branch out and try another sparkling beverage to fall back on in case of a Champagne emergency. Italian Prosecco is always a nice go-to, and Bustle is suggesting that Champagne enthusiasts give Spanish Cava, which is even closer to Champagne than the better-known Prosecco.

Are you desperately concerned about the impending Champagne shortage?

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]