Good Omen for 2011: Champagne Sales Are Sparkling

Makers of champagne should be in good spirits as 2010 comes to a close.

champagne glasses
Ian O'Leary | Dorling Kindersley | Getty Images
champagne glasses

In the last 90 days or so, consumers have been returning to high-end champagnes, Chris Adams, CEO of New York wine retailer Sherry-Lehmann told CNBC.

"[O]ur Dom Perignonsales, for example, in the month of December, doubled from last year," Adams said, adding that this means hundreds of additional cases have been sold.

This is a huge improvement over recent years, when recession-pinched consumers began to trade down to less expensive wines and spirits.

Also, at the low end, sales have been holding relatively stable, which Adams expects means that more people in general are purchasing champagne.

For his own New Year's celebration, Adams said he will be drinking Dom Perignon to toast what looks to be a very promising 2011 based on sales trends over the last 90 days.

However, Sherry-Lehmann also recommends several other brands on its Web site, including Louis Bouillot's Cremant de Bourgogne Rose, which sells for $14.99 a bottle, and Ruinart's Blanc de Blancs, which sells for $59.95 a bottle. The "Andy Warhol Collection, Dom Perignon 2002 sells for $169.95 a bottle.

Adams said he has also seen customers trading up to higher-priced Bordeaux wines, which a lot of wine-drinkers were not willing to do during the recession.

What's Ahead for 2011

I recently spoke with Arthur Ceria, founder of CreativeFeed, a marketing firm that worked ona recent campaign to promote Bordeaux wines to new consumers. The industry has brought new consumers into the category by using social media to make Bordeaux more approachable.

Ceria expects the wine industry to continue to use social media as a way to market itself because it is a natural fit to the way people approach wine. He explained that many customers want to research wine before they purchase it, and new applications for smartphones, wine blogs, and even Twitter and Facebook feeds are making it easier for customers to find the information they are seeking even when they are in the store.

"The evolution of the Web and blogs have enabled, in a good way, the ability for consumers to share the knowledge," he said.

Ceria expects to see more innovation in the wine space in 2011. One recent idea that has been tested is wine vending machines, where consumers can purchase a flight of wines to taste at a very low cost.

Simplifying packaging is another way winemakers are looking to grab new audiences, Ceria said. He expects to see more of that in the current year.

This includes ideas such as Sofia Coppola's champagne in a can, wines such as French Rabbit that are sold in Tretra Paks, and wines sold in single-serving tubes. These ideas can make it easier to bring wine to parties or outdoor occasions such as picnics or tailgating parties.

Better quality wines also are being sold in boxes, according to John Roberts, Partner & Napier's chief strategy officer.

Roberts expects these products will help eliminate the stigma against boxed wine, and make these products a good choice for large gatherings.

One way they are doing that is by turning out different-shaped boxes, including a new packaging system called Octavin that is shaped like an octagon.

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