DON’T PANIC! But there might be a global Champagne shortage coming our way.
A destructive combination of poor weather, rot and mildew has meant that the latest crop yield has been atrocious. In fact, 2016 has seen the lowest yield since the 1980s. In Spring, the Côte des Bar region – where a quarter of the Champagne vineyards are – was hit by late frosts which caused irreversible damage to buds and young shoots. That was followed by severe hailstorms, and a nasty mildew epidemic which swept through the Champagne region. Okay, you can panic now a Champagne Shortage could be on the way.
The publication Decanter, which specialises in all things wine, was told by winemaker Eric Rodez, from the family-owned Champagne Rodez in Ambonnay, that the 2016 growing season has been “the most complicated Champagne has known since the very difficult season of 1956.” Winemakers from across the region claim to have lost 70 percent of their potential harvest. Champagne harvests typically yield around 10,700 kg per 100 acres, which has now shrunk to between 2,500 and 3,000 kg per 100 acres.
But never fear, this does not mean you have to start cancelling your brunch dates or fill the towel cupboard with Veuve Clicquot. According to the experts, although we will see a slight rise in price, current Champagne reserves stand at a relatively high level, meaning there is enough Champagne available to cover at least one more bad year. Hallelujah.
Nevertheless, just in case the weather gods don’t feel like being so kind (although I fully encourage anti-rain dances or any other weather related rituals which may help resolve this potential crisis), here is a list of our favourite bubbly alternatives:
UK Sparkling Wines
In recent years English bubbly has managed to earn quite a respectable reputation for itself, winning international wine awards, and gaining vast recommendations from respected wine critics. Many even believe that, dare I say it, sparkling wine from the U.K is even better than Champagne. This home-grown variation is clearly more than a phase, with demand on the increase and vineyards springing up throughout the southern counties. Our preferred wines include:
Mayfield, Essence, East Sussex, Brut 2011
This award winning sparkling wine from Sussex Vineyards in Mayfield, East Sussex is 100% Chardonnay, with a bit of cellar age to bring out the enticing, biscuity flavours and ensure a long finish. Tiny production of this tipple means that you’d better hurry and secure yours before it’s all gone!
Prosecco is a sparkling wine made in the Veneto region of Italy around the city of Treviso, close to the north of Venice. Made with Prosecco grapes (also known as Glera grapes), Prosecco is Champagne’s cheaper Italian cousin as it’s produced using a more affordable method called the ‘Tank Method’ compared to ‘Méthode Champenoise”. However, there is no surprise that Prosecco is the Champagne alternative of choice, as the market offers a range of deliciously creamy and fruity sparkling wines with a slightly more forgiving price tag.
Bepin de Eto Flavè Rosato
A stunning bottle with equally distinctive flavours. Tastes of fragrant white peach and apricot are the first to emerge, followed by melon, lychee, and pink grapefruit, ending on a fine note of ripe pineapple. The palate is refined and subtle, yet rich and multi-layered, offering a crisp acidity, and a simple, balanced finish.
Prosecco Superiore DOCG Selezione Raphael Dal Bo
This elegant bottle of Prosecco boasts a noble bouquet with refreshingly light, pleasantly dry and fruity tastes.
Cava is the sparkling wine of Spain. It is mainly made with traditional, indigenous Spanish grapes, and produced using the Champagne Method. However, only producers in the Champagne region may use the term “Méthode Champenoise”, so in Spain it is known as the “Método Tradicional” or Traditional Method. However, unlike Champagne, Cava can come from a few limited, official areas in Spain, not just one area. Although Cava has suffered a certain identity crisis in the U.K, we shouldn’t be deceived. There are bottles on the market which would be a welcome alternative at many celebrations.
Gramona Brut Nature Reserva 2009
Well known amongst Cava lovers, this beverage offers flavours of roasted nuts, sweet nutmeg and ginger. Boasting a complex, long, saline finish, Gramona is a sparkling of wine of generous maturity and depth.
“Crémant” wines commonly refer to sparkling wines made in France, outside the Champagne region. Meaning “creamy” in French, Crémant sparkling wines got their name from the fact that the wines used to contain lower CO2 levels, giving them a creamier texture. Crémant is known to be light and easy to drink, making it a delectable apéritif.
Astelia Crémant de Limoux
This lively drink with notes of lemon and pastry from southwest France is named after owner Jean-Claude Mas’ daughter, Astelia. It is made from up to 90 per cent Chardonnay, combined with Chenin Blanc with Pinot Noir to form a balanced and fun beverage.