Australians are drinking more vintage Champagne than ever before. Sales have risen an incredible 79 percent last year, according to official figures from industry body Comité Champagne.
Imports of non-vintage Champagne rose 11 percent making Australia the seventh-largest Champagne importer in the world, with 5, 406, 837 bottles brought into the country according to the latest data. Australia and Japan were the only two countries in the top 10 to record an increase in consumption during 2012.
“It is remarkable considering our small population,” says Bernadette O’Shea, Champagne expert and author of Champagne & Chandeliers. She believes the growing trend for vintage is because people aren’t afraid to splash out to celebrate. “We are such a great wine-growing country and because we are vast there is always a vintage year in Australia. Therefore when it comes to a special celebration, we are used to buying vintage wine so when purchasing a bottle of Champagne, we will pay extra and buy a vintage.”
Champagne is only grown in France, from the grapes pinot noir, pinot meunier (another type of black grape) and the white grape, chardonnay. When asked whether rising Champagne sales will hurt the local Australian industry, O’Shea is optimistic. “The more people who convert to Champagne help lift sales of Australian sparkling wine. People turn to ‘bubbles’ and when they do not buy the real ones they will often try local sparkling wines, so it does increase sales of those wines.”
Other trends O’Shea has noticed include the growing popularity of rosé champagne – “It is excellent with food – especially Japanese and other Asian cuisines” – organic and biodynamic Champagnes and also drier varieties. “Houses are using less dosage of liqueur d’expedition, which is usually 8 or 9 grams of sugar per litre.
Some houses are making their champagne with no added sugar so they are very dry,” says O’Shea, who is based in Brisbane and regularly hosts educational and social events at The Wine Emporium. “These are great with a plate of oysters and also popular with women on diets.” We’ll drink to that.