Champagne has been hailed as the king of wine for centuries, but over the past 10 years, it is slowly being replaced in popularity by sparkling wine from other regions. Sparkling wine sales in other countries have increased by 40 percent, selling about 2.3 billion bottles globally every year, compared to Champagne’s 3 million bottles. Wine experts around the world worried when the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships awarded two out of three of its top spots to Italian sparkling wine, not Champagne. Sparkling wine may be increasing in popularity, but Champagne still takes home at least one top award every year, in spite of its low yields. Its consistent quality and excellent reputation make Champagne worth a spot in any collector’s cellar, no matter the current trends.
Dry Sparkling Wine Is a Hit in Italy and Napa Valley
The two Italian wines that took home awards from this year’s Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships were Ferrari, who won Producer of the Year, and a Cuvage Rose from Piedmont, which won the Chairman’s Trophy.1 Italian producers are earning more awards every year, especially as they craft drier vintages of traditionally sweeter classics such as Prosecco. France is still the largest producer of sparkling wine, harvesting 3.5 million hectoliters on its lands. However, Italy is right on France’s heels, with 3.2 million hectoliters dedicated to grapes for sparkling wines. Regions such as Trentino are leading the way in the dry Italian sparkling wine revolution, largely due to a shift in how we think of sparkling wine.
Sparkling wine has long been a cultural staple of European festivities, yet the United States has also experienced an increase of sparkling wine production, which now makes up 5 percent of its total wine sales. Much of this wine originates in Napa Valley and Sonoma, where drought conditions are ideal for growing Chardonnay grapes that produce premium sparkling wines. More sparkling white wine blends have resulted in a renewed interest in dry sparkling wines in the country, further chipping away at Champagne’s top title.
Champagne Is Still Worth More on the Market
All is not lost for Champagne; France only represents 18 percent of the volume of sparkling wine sold each year, but it accounts for 53 percent of the total net worth of bottles sold globally. In other words, while France is selling fewer wines than other regions, its wines sell for significantly more than those in other countries. Collectors looking for the best sparkling wines for investment, or who want to increase the worth of their collections, will find their best choice in Champagne vintages.
Additional studies have proven that Champagne’s decreased sales have more to do with where wine drinkers choose to splurge, rather than a sign of Champagne’s decreased market worth. According to the Champagne Bureau, exports of Champagne to the UK decreased by 6.1 percent, but buyers in the UK paid 0.5 percent more for the bottles than in the previous year. The Bureau says that the increase of worth is due to Champagne’s historical reputation, which made it the first pick for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Buyers still view Champagne as a luxury item meant for royalty, and are willing to pay top dollar for the chance to own a premium vintage.
Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Essi Avellan said, “Many terroirs can be championed with expertise, but price and image are where the other regions stumble.” For example, Franciacorta sparkling wines have increased in popularity, but have only had 40 years to develop their reputations in the wine world. By comparison, Champagne has had more than three centuries to build its rapport with wine critics and celebrities. It will take many more years for these up-and-coming sparkling wine estates to build the worldwide reputations of vintages such as Dom Perignon.
Champagne vs Sparkling Wine: Buy Different Wines for Different Reasons
The increase in sparkling wine sales in the past 10 years is not a reflection on collections; most of the wines being sold cannot withstand years of cellaring, and have little, if any, resale market value. Sparkling wine is the best choice for immediate drinking or short-term cellaring, but serious collectors should keep their eyes on the prize. New sparkling wines from modern estates have not yet had the time to develop the iconic reputations of fine Champagne producers such as Krug. This producer has refined its techniques down to the 200-year-old wood that it uses to ferment its wines, mastering the art of sparkling wine.
Unlike other sparkling wine producers, Krug and Bollinger employ separate tasting committees whose sole purpose is to test their Champagne vintages for quality and aging ability. In Krug’s case, the committee tastes each bottle twice within its first two years of cellaring, allowing them to make any necessary changes to the bottle before it’s too late. Champagne produces the longest cellaring sparkling wines due to strict AOC classification regulations on their lands. If grapes do not meet AOC standards, such as for alcohol content or residual sugar level, they are shipped off to other producers, never to receive the name “Champagne” on their label. While other sparkling wines respond to trends, Champagne looks toward its future as it tenaciously defends its quality above all else.
Whether you are looking for a fine bottle of sparkling wine from Italy, or you want to invest in the Champagne of a lifetime, you can find everything you need on Vinfolio. Our up-to-date wine search system allows you to narrow your results down by region and varietal to find exactly the bottle you’re looking for.