StateWays - November/December 2016

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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StateWays | | November/December 2016 39 Here's a look at how the major sparkling wine categories are currently faring in the marketplace. CHAMPAGNE Champagne is considered by most connoisseurs to be the gold standard of sparkling wine (under existing trade agreements, some California producers still are allowed to call their wines "champagne," but true Champagne comes only from the French region of the same name). Champagne is made by the traditional method, or méthode champenoise, in which the bubbles are pro- duced by a secondary fermentation that takes place inside the bottle. It is generally quite a bit more expensive than other spar- kling wines; according to Nielsen, the average cost for a bottle of Champagne is $51 – but Champagne sales are showing healthy growth. For the 52 weeks ending Sept. 10, 2016, Champagne sales were up around 10 percent, both by value and volume. The overall sparkling trend is helping, says Sam Heitner, di- rector of the Champagne Bureau, USA. "For the most part, the more Americans drink sparkling wine, the better it is for Cham- pagne." He thinks that as consumers learn more about Cham- pagne's unique qualities, they become more willing to "spend a bit more money for a special bottle." The No. 1 Champagne brand in the United States is Veuve Clicquot, especially the non-vintage brut bottling known as Yellow Label. According to the Beverage Information and In- sights Group, imports of all bottlings of Veuve Clicquot for 2015 stood at 441,000 cases, up almost 9 percent from 2014 to 2015. That outpaced Veuve's sister brand, Moët & Chandon (both are owned by Moët Hennessy). A company statement attributes Veuve's success, at least in part, to its flavor profile, which it describes as reconciling "two opposing factors -- forcefulness and finesse." In addition, the company stresses promotional activities, including events like the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, held in October in Los Angeles. Veuve Clicquot and Moët are known as Champagne "houses" and are permitted to buy large quantities of grapes. According to the Champagne Bureau USA, the houses account for more than 87 percent of Champagne shipments to the U.S. That percentage has dropped some as so-called grower Champagnes (producers who grow their own grapes) and bubblies from cooperatives have increased shipments. Grower Champagne imports have doubled over the past decade and now account for more than 5 percent of the market. Terry Theise is a leading importer of grower Champagne and represents 17 producers. He says that when he began in 1997, there were 33 growers exporting to the U.S., representing 0.62 percent of the market. In 2015, 297 exported to the U.S. Theise says grower Champagne has "all the buzz" and "domi- nates the conversation among smart wine buyers." There's also a feel-good aspect: "You get to support the farmers who have a little dirt under their nails instead of the corporate guys in three-piece suits." Shipments from cooperatives to the U.S. have grown more than 50 percent in the past decade, driven at least in part by the largest coop, Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte. Olivier Zorel, Feuillatte's area export manager for the Americas, says the com- pany's non-vintage Brut Réserve, which retails for $36, "contin- ues to perform well, as consumers have come to recognize this Champagne consistently delivers great quality at a fair price." Zorel adds that sales during the holiday season are helped by the release of a specialty bottle. Heitner notes another trend that is boosting Champagne: the popularity of rosé wines. Nearly 15 percent of the Champagne shipped to the U.S. is rosé, and that figure is growing, despite the fact that rosé Champagne is often significantly more expensive than non-rosé. Rosé Champagne, Heitner says, works well as an aperitif, "but also goes into a meal a little further." U.S. SPARKLING Domestic sparkling wine dominates U.S. sales, with more than 55 percent of the market, according to Nielsen. The category – which includes inexpensive wines produced in pressurized tanks (called the charmat method) as well as traditional-method bub-

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