Features Champagne Survey Results
A Look at Where Bubbly Stands in a Recession

May 2009

A glass of Champagne has long signified luxury, leisure, status, and celebration. Back in 2007, Champagne sales reached 900 million glasses—the highest since 1999’s millennium buying craze. Now, with a vastly different economic landscape, we thought it would be interesting to survey sommeliers, beverage directors, chefs, and other industry professionals from around the world to determine Champagne’s place on beverage lists today.

According to our survey participants, value and price ranked highly amongst the most important factors in determining their buying process keeping in step with the economy. But, above all, taste preference still proved to be the foremost determining factor.

Graphs: Factors that Influence Buying Process
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Eighty two percent of respondents noted that they have a separate section on their wine lists for sparkling wine or Champagne. In terms of how the Champagne purchased for restaurants is used, 91% of professionals cited offerings by the bottle, while a close 81% reported offerings by the glass. A surprisingly sizable amount proved to be rather inventive with their bubbly: 62% say that they use Champagne in cocktails and 41% utilize it as an ingredient while cooking in the kitchen.

Graphs: Special Sections for Champagne on a Wine List
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Graphs: Restaurant Use of Champagne
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Most professionals seem to believe that a wine and food pairing would not be complete without a glass of Champagne. Seventy nine percent of restaurants that featured wine pairings incorporated Champagne into their selections. 

Graphs: Champagne in Wine Pairings
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Of the establishments offering champagne by the glass, 33% reported that they have at least three or more true Champagnes on their lists, while 31% reported offering none. For those offering champagne bottles, we found that 25% listed 10 or more bottles of true Champagne, while 27% offer three or less.

Alternatives to authentic Champagne, such as sparkling wines like Cava and Prosecco, have become more popular choices these days for their similar mouthfeel to Champagne and lower price point. But can consumers tell the difference? We asked, and 38% of respondents answered that definitively their consumer can tell the difference, while a combined 49% were more doubtful, saying that their customers were aware either 50% of the time or most of the time.  

Graphs: Awareness of Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine
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Owner Gina Naya, of G. Naya Food & Wine in Nayarit, Mexico feels the knowledgeable are “not many...really. That’s why we offer the tastings, the seminars about wines, etcetera to promote the culture of wines and teach people about them.” However, Chef Nicole Pederson of Lula Café in Chicago, says about consumer’s Champagne knowledge, “Yes, I think that we are dealing with a more educated client these days,” and Chef de Cuisine Ralph Sitero of the Rams Head Inn in Absecon, NJ, echoes her sentiment asserting, “Yes, very much so now that Prosecco is trendy, and this pales in comparison to the real deal!”

And since a glass of true Champagne is no doubt an indulgence to several consumers in today’s economy, we were intrigued to find out if restaurants still offered complementary glasses to their customers and if so, under what circumstances. Surprisingly, and—thankfully from the consumer standpoint—65% of professionals responded that they do offer a glass of Champagne a gratis. The number one reason restaurants doled out a complementary glass? For VIP clients. Other circumstances for offering a free glass included the age-old tradition of serving Champagne as an aperitif, making up for a mishap at the restaurant, or other events such as special occasions and holidays.

Graphs:Circumstances to Offer Complimentary Champagne
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Rather than having a customer score a free glass of Champagne from your restaurant, the ideal situation is, of course, having them place a paying order. And when it comes to ordering, the Champagnes offering the most value in terms of price (around the $30 dollar mark) and taste are faring well, like Nicolas Feuillatte.

It’s difficult to discuss any brand or type of wine without the mention of vintage. We polled our professionals to weigh in on just how important vintage was to them and their customers. Fifty five percent reported that vintage mattered to both them and their customers, while 36% reported that it did not. Chris Hiatt, Wine Buyer for Slope Cellars, a wine and spirits shop in Brooklyn, NY, says of his vintage philosophy, “To us they matter, but very rarely for our customers.”

Giving away Champagne to say “I’m sorry” for a restaurant blunder, separate sections for champagne lists, and bubbly savvy customers, make our survey results clear: even during these hard times, by the glass or by the bottle, Champagne remains a special indulgence and virtual necessity on a restaurant’s wine list. Go ahead and pop a cork.  

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