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Don’t panic, but retailers are rationing Champagne

French fizz supplies in Australia continue to tighten in the lead up to Christmas, due to a shortage of shipping containers, increased freight costs and record demand. And some retailers are rationing Champagne to avoid customers missing out.

Australians popped a record number of Champagne corks during 2020, with the IRI National Liquor Read Market Edge report showing the category was up 40%. Billecart-Salmon saw its sales increase by more than 60% in Australia in 2020, while sales surged by 27% for Pernod Ricard’s Champagne brands Maison Perrier-Jouët and Maison Mumm.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that buying limits on Champagne have been introduced at Dan Murphy’s in Double Bay.

Dan Murphy’s Double Bay is one of the retailer’s biggest grossing stores for Champagne. In 2019, customers at the store bought the most Champagne in the country during the Christmas season.

“Shoppers in Sydney’s Double Bay were horrified on Monday to spot a sign inside their local Dan Murphy’s advising of a national fizz shortage and advice that they would be limited to buying just two cartons of Billecart Salmon, Veuve Clicquot, Moet et Chandon, Louis Roederer, Perrier Jouet and Bollinger per day,” the SMH noted. “That’s a meagre 12 bottles.”

On a sign titled ‘Champagne National Shortage’ the store manager wrote: “The following lines are [subject to] a two carton limit until 31st December 2021. The limit applies daily. No more than 2 cartons can be purchased of each product in one transaction.”

CBD’s resident bubbly expert advised the column the shortage is real and noted that demand for champagne imports has soared 11% over last year – the only country in the world to show significant growth over 12 months. And this year’s figures are “astonishing”, the fizz insider said.

“And it makes sense, really,” the SMH said. “There’s nothing better than a bottle of fizz to ease the monotony of lockdown. There’s also nothing better than a balthazar of the stuff to celebrate the end of it.”

“Champagne is tough,” premium importer and distributor Ken Withers, of Negociants Australia told The Australian. “Champagne has been really hard to get this year; global demand is historically high already … We’re okay with Pol Roger but, anecdotally, a lot of the others (importers) have run out.

Louis Roederer agent Sally McGill, from national wine distributor Red & White, added: “In a normal year, and I’ve been associated with Louis Roederer for 27 years, November and December are by far the biggest months. Ask any retailer and they’ll tell you it’s like Christmas all the time these days.”

“Demand (for champagne) is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” said Michael Gray, of Bibendum. “We saw a glimpse in Melbourne post-lockdown earlier this year, but there’s always a surge this time of year … The world has woken up to grower champagnes (estate-grown and produced wines) but I think it’s fair to say Australia gets more than it’s fair share of them, which is wonderful.”

Pernod Ricard account manager Ken Mehr recently noted that the recent relaxing of social restrictions in the US and Europe is putting even more pressure on supplies.

“I have never seen anything like this,” he said. “People have been limited by the pandemic in so many ways. They can’t travel. So if nothing else they want to drink champagne and they want the best stuff.”

Australia isn’t alone in rationing Champagne supplies. The Wall Street Journal reported this week: “If you want to buy a case of Veuve Clicquot Champagne at a state store in Pennsylvania, you’ll have to buy two bottles and wait until the next day to buy two more. And the next day another two, and so on and on—while supplies last. VC is one of the wines currently rationed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) in response to the supply-chain disruption roiling the wine world right now.”

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is rationing 43 brands of alcohol , with certain braands of bourbon, tequila, cognac and whiskey also on the restricted list. It’s a similar situation in Utah, where Patron tequila is at the top of the list of alcohol in short supply, followed by Modelo Negra beer (due to a brown glass shortage) and Moet champagne.

Meanwhile, British Airways passengers are reporting a shortage of champagne on board some short-haul flights. British Airways has been forced to buy up vast quantities of Rose champagne as supplies of its usual fizz dwindles. Quelle horror!

On long-haul flights, cabin crew have been instructed to only offer water outside of main service times although flight attendants will meet passenger requests for other drinks so long as it is in stock.

The advice from Louis Roederer agent Sally McGill on ensuring that your favourite bubbles are on the table this Christmas?

“If you know what you want, I wouldn’t wait this year,” she said.

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