Why You May Have Trouble Finding Champagne This Holiday Season

Champagne importers are calling it a "perfect storm" (via The Washington Post). Not just Champagne but all kinds of products are scarce, due to the all-consuming supply chain crisis. To give just one example, the backlog of container ships waiting to be unloaded has led to a shortage of glass bottles used for wine, Business Insider reported. This same global traffic jam in shipping, triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, is making it difficult for importers in the U.S. to receive timely shipments of the Champagne they ordered from France, according to The Washington Post.

But other factors are contributing to a Champagne shortage as the holiday season approaches. Bad weather in April knocked out more than half the grape crop in the Champagne region: extended frost followed by mildew brought on by too much rain. 

You can add a third element to this "perfect storm": demand for Champagne in the U.S. has been high since mid-2020, after crashing early in the pandemic. The small harvest this year, and the small production goal set in 2020 due to the pandemic, don't immediately hit bottles being sold now because Champagne is aged in the bottle for a couple of years. But producers are keeping some Champagne off the market now to make sure they have some to sell over the next couple of years.

Champagne lovers have options if their favorite brand isn't on the shelf

What does the Champagne shortage mean for the U.S. customer who is looking forward to popping a cork over Thanksgiving, Christmas, or (most definitely) New Year's Eve? For one thing, high demand and low supply mean you can expect to pay more. The Washington Post cited sources saying luxury brands including Dom Pérignon and Cristal have hiked their prices as much as 9%. Also, certain labels may be unavailable. A champagne importer based in Virginia said they won't be getting any more of the popular Billecart-Salmon until well after the holidays.

Lovers of bubbly do have a few options at this point. If you know Champagne will be on your party list a couple of months from now, go ahead and shop now. Be flexible: If you have a go-to brand and it's not on the shelf, try something different. You could even branch out even further. Champagne's Spanish and Italian cousins, Cava and Prosecco, might be in the same boat (literally) as Champagne when it comes to the supply chain problem, but they haven't felt the same production pinches as Champagne. So, they might be easier to find. If it's not too much of a break from your tradition, you might also try one of the popular California sparkling wines, such as Mumm or Iron Horse (via VinePair). If you live in the U.S., California bubblies don't need to travel to you via cargo ship.