On the Grapevine

All the latest news from the world of wine.

Cheaper Champagne increases in quality
A recent tasting organised by the New York Times of 20 Champagnes, priced under $40 each, found the panel surprised by the elegance that they found.
For the tasting, writers Florence Fabricant and Eric Asimov were joined by Elisa Kwon, chief buyer at Morrell & Company, a New York wine retailer, and Rebecca Foster, a European specialist with Acid Inc. Selections, an importer and distributor.
According to the tasters, the Champagnes offered a higher level of finesse and pleasure than had been expected, without the sweetness sometimes found in less expensive bottles.
The reason, according to the writer, is that shipments from Champagne to the US have been drastically reduced in recent months, as a result of the economic slowdown.
In 2006, Champagne shipped more than 23.15 million bottles to the United States, according to the Champagne Bureau, an industry trade group. That volume reflected a growing demand, not only in the United States but worldwide. Prices rose accordingly, to the point where a lot of entry-level bottles surged past $40. However, when the bottom fell out of the economy, it also dropped out of the Champagne market. Shipments fell to around 17.19 million in 2008 and kept going down. In the first eight months of 2009, the Champagne Bureau said, shipments to the United States were down about 40 percent from last year.
Thus some big named Champagnes have again fallen to under the US$40 mark in the US, great news for the consumer who can once again enjoy their favourite tipple at a more affordable price.

New study reveals Merlot on the up

The Nielsen Company has recently revealed new research into consumer wine consumption patterns and attitudes. Commissioned by Blackstone Winery, the research has found that Merlot is the grape most consumed by US wine consumers and, of the major wine varietals, is the one most closely associated with high quality at an affordable price.
In particular the report says that more American households purchase Merlot than any other wine variety, red or white and Merlot has the highest repeat purchase rate of any wine variety in the US. In general, Merlot drinkers strongly agree that Merlot is a good, versatile and food-friendly everyday wine.
Merlot remains the second best-selling red wine variety in the US behind Cabernet Sauvignon, and the third most popular varietal overall. However, Nielsen’s analysis reveals that Merlot enjoys higher household penetration than any other wine variety, with 9.5 percent of US households purchasing at least one bottle of Merlot in 2008 compared to 9.3 percent for Chardonnay and 8.8 percent for Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot also boasts the highest repeat purchase rate of any variety, with 49 percent of Merlot consumers making multiple purchases year over year.