There has been a lot of talk about "new normals" in the wake of Covid, but one thing that hasn't changed is people's thirst for Champagne.
While wine, beer and spirits generally thrived during the various international lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders and commercial carnage, wine did particularly well. Given many were predicting the end of the world 13 months ago, wine has found itself in a pretty decent place at the other end of the tunnel.
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Sure, it's been tough. Restaurants and bars have not been selling wine, but the online boom took up much of the slack and our own figures here on Wine-Searcher bear that out. Searches were up for most wine styles, as were sales leads, demonstrating an increase in interest in wine and an increased willingness to buy online.
One thing we did notice was an increase in searches and leads for more expensive wine; it's as though people decided to throw caution to the wind and splash out on the good stuff. The First Growths, the Grand Cru Burgundies, Napa Cabs and SuperTuscans all saw increased interest among consumers, but few had as good a pandemic as Champagne.
According to the Liv-ex fine wine market index, trade in Champagne in the first quarter of this year was up by 60 percent on the corresponding period last year and our own search and sales leads figures show a resounding upsurge in interest in the category, led by the irrepressible Dom Pérignon.
In all of our major markets, Dom was the undoubted star of the show, topping the search results in nine of our 10 top markets. The LVMH prestige cuvée also held its own against the heavyweights of the wine world, not just ending up as the best Champagne performer, but it also became the most searched-for wine in many countries.
It was the spearhead of an unusual phenomenon during the height of Covid – as things got worse in the outside world, people were searching online for more quality wines than ever. If this virus was going to ruin life as we knew it, then people were clearly planning to go out in a blaze of vinous glory.
Let's take a look at the wines.The World's Most Wanted Champagnes on Wine-Searcher:
|Wine Name||Score||Ave Price|
|Dom Pérignon Brut||94||$215|
|Louis Roederer Cristal Millésime Brut||95||$278|
|Krug Vintage Brut||96||$378|
|Salon Cuvée S Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut||95||$858|
|Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut||92||$182|
|Bollinger RD Extra Brut||94||$280|
|Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut||91||$247|
|Dom Pérignon Rosé||94||$381|
|Bollinger La Grande Année Brut||93||$149|
|Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Brut||91||$74|
As mentioned above, the list is basically a rundown of the most desirable luxury Champagnes on the market. Look at the scores, for example; if you average those scores out, each wine has an aggregated critic score of 93.5. Only the most small-minded of snobs would cock a snook at any of those wines.
We last ran this list two years ago and, while eight of the wines reappear above, the changes are telling. Gone are "ordinary" cuvées like Moët Brut, Veuve Clicquot and – ahem – Krug Brut, replaced by rather more grand rivals: the non-vintage Krug swaps out for its vintage stablemate; Mo?t is also replaced by a vintage version; and Veuve loses out to Pol Roger's luxury Winston Churchill cuvée.
Although the emphasis has been on the top-end of the range, the prices – while reasonably hefty – aren't crazy. In fact, only two of these wines have increased in average price substantially since we last ran this list in 2019; the Salon has gone up by a whopping 38 percent (from $619 a bottle), while the Bollinger Grand Année rose by 25 percent, from $119 a bottle.
Champagne has certainly had its ups and downs in the past couple of years – arguments over yields, political infighting and falling sales have all been issues at some stage – but its unique combination of quality and relative value at the top end is irresistible to consumers.
In a world where certainties are few and far between and optimism is a rare beast, Champagne's cup is overflowing.