Winemakers acting to meet demand for bargain bubbly
Associated Press
Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NAPA, Calif. --- Stock market and real estate bubbles have deflated, but consumers still are looking for the frisson of fizz in their glasses -- but not the expensive stuff.

While sales of Champagne from France have slipped considerably, figures for cheaper bubblies -- such as proseccos from Italy, Spanish cavas and U.S. sparkling wines -- have jumped, reflecting the trading down that has gone on across the wine market, says analyst Jon Fredrikson.

"It's just like consumers pushed the reset button," says Mr. Fredrikson, who tracks wine shipments at his Woodside, Calif.-based Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates. After a decade where consumers embraced expensive, big-name brands "we're back to a whole new reality. (They are) still drinking sparkling wines, but moving down to lower prices."

Some sparkling statistics:

For the first nine months of this year, shipments of all French sparkling wines, including from the region of Champagne, were down 28 percent compared to the same period the year before, says Mr. Fredrikson.

Prosecco shipments for the same period were up 11 percent, to 1.2 million cases. Although while sales have dropped for some pricier California bubbly, sales of lower-priced sparklers were up 11 percent to 3.2 million cases.

In New York, Chris Adams, the chief executive officer of the Sherry-Lehmann wine store, has seen the market trends in human form.

"It's been incredible. Sparkling wine sales have just been absolutely through the roof," he says. "The trade-down has been in effect and customers have been going for those wines."

California winemaker Jen Wall sees the trend as a chance for sparkling wine to burst out of the "special occasion" category.

"We've seen an increase in sales through the entire year," says Ms. Wall, winemaker at Modesto-based Barefoot Wine, which aims to sell 350,000 cases of bubbly this year.

"We're really making a big effort to let people know that it's OK to drink sparkling wine for occasions other than New Year's, birthdays, etc."

Barefoot has five different sparkling wines, all under $10 a bottle, "kind of the sweet spot for sparkling wine," says Ms. Wall.

From the Wednesday, December 30, 2009 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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