This Wine Category is Sparking Consumer Interest

Purchases of sparkling wine — specifically Champagne — have significantly picked up the pace in the United States according to year-end 2021 figures.

The Champagne Bureau, USA — the US representative of the Comité Champagne, the trade association that represents all the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France —  this week announced that 34,119,758 bottles of the popular French bubbly were shipped to the US last year, a 63.9% increase year-over-year in the adjusted final annual figures and the most bottles shipped to any country outside of France. 

Americans bought $872.5 million worth of Champagne, the most of any nation outside the product’s country of origin. Globally, Champagne, France shipped 322 million bottles in 2021, an increase of 32% from 2020 as COVID-19 restrictions eased worldwide. 

The closure of primary consumption and sales hubs, along with the cancellation of in-person events, put pressure on the Champagne industry globally in 2020. Jennifer Hall, director of Champagne Bureau USA, said the beverage had bounced back due to a number of factors.

“Champagne has bounced back as the United States made progress towards recovery from the global pandemic, including a return to in-person celebrations and fewer restrictions at restaurants and bars across the country,” Hall said. 

Trending beyond France and California

According to data reported by e-commerce beverage alcohol marketplace Drizly, Champagne accounts for 57% of sales in the sparkling wine category.

Beyond France, sparkling wine production has also been a California institution for years. But amid the Champagne boom some United States winemakers outside of California have been increasingly introducing sparkling wines into their lineups using a variety of grapes ranging from Chardonnay and Pinot to lesser seen varietals such as La Crosse.

For example, Blind Horse Restaurant and Winery in Kohler, Wisconsin is producing a sparkling wine made from La Crosse grapes growing in vines in their own state. 

READ MORE: Why Blind Horse Sourced Grapes From Wisconsin For Its Sparkling Wine

Argyle Winery in Oregon is well known for its Pinot Noir, but its sparkling wine made from Pinot grapes is picking up in popularity. Following that trend, Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon began farming for sparkling wines in the Dundee Hills. It’s on track to open a new sparkling wine facility this summer and plans to build its sparkling portfolio, Winery Director Christine Clair told Vintner Magazine in a recent interview.

“When you look at it, you wonder why Oregon doesn’t do more of it,” Clair said. “Our signature grapes are Pinot and Chardonnay. We have a very cool climate — even cooler than in Champagne — and we can develop balanced wines with a lot of flavor.

“We probably have more than two dozen wineries here making sparkling wine now and it’s a huge story to tell in Oregon.”

Getting into the sparkling game is both pricy and time consuming, Clair and Blind Horse winemaker and GM Tom Nye both indicated. Despite that, Clair said that at price points ranging from $50-75 per bottle, high quality American sparkling wines such as those produced by places like Willamette Valley could prove to be worthy adversaries to France’s most famous sparkling varietal.

“They could rival the greatest champagnes that sell for much more than that,” Clair said.

(Photo: Willamette Valley Vineyards)

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