Sparkling wine is popping up all over retailer shelves and restaurant wine lists alike. There’s no question that bubbly is the taste of the season—and producers are reaping the benefits.
U.S. Champagne sales grew more than 5% last year, while Prosecco sales were up 16% for the same period. Crémant de Limoux and Blanquette de Limoux in France’s Languedoc have seen sales soar 55% over the last four years. The region now exports half of its production and one-third of that sum is distributed to the U.S.
Despite the big export efforts, Languedoc doesn’t do much marketing, according to Christine Molines, marketing director for Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc. “This is probably why our prices are [lower],” she says.
Most of region’s sparkling wines sell for $15–$25, making them an affordable alternative to Champagne. Molines believes they’re also a reliable alternative to Prosecco, specifically with regards to quality.
“I don’t want to say Prosecco is not reliable, but Limoux is much more reliable because we’re very much based on quality. We have an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) with very strict rules, and we are much more affordable than Champagne,” Molines says. “You’ve got very good Prosecco, of course, that is very expensive, but Proseccos at the same price as a Limoux is certainly not as consistent (in quality) as a Limoux.”
Quality aside, Limoux indeed exports more than some other sparkling regions. Crémant d’Alsace, for instance, exports only 26% of its wines, and of those 36.1 million bottles, less than 8% make it to the U.S.
On the other hand, they market what they export: They’ve partnered with some New York restaurants and retailers to showcase their wines through a promotion dubbed Alsace Rocks—and it may be working.
Various New York City wine bars have jumped on the Crémant d’Alsace bandwagon. At Racines NY, a bar that specializes in organic and biodynamic pours, Master Sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier has been “serving Alsace like it’s water,” says Stephanie Teuwen, a spokeswoman for The Wines of Alsace. Meanwhile Air’s Champagne Parlor hosted a Crémant d’Alsace pop-up, and La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels hosted an “Outta this Earth” pop up.
Some 20 cutting-edge retailers in New York, including BottleRocket, Bowery & Vine and Flatiron Wines, also took part in the promotion. Their staffs were trained, tastings were held, and in return, the retailers agreed to take at least 3 stock keeping units (SKUs). Final sales numbers won’t be released until later this month, but it appears to have been a success.