Wine experts say holiday champagne recession is over

NEW YORK Tue Dec 17, 2013 12:26pm EST

A tray of champagne cocktails rests on a table during a food and wine preview in preparation for the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 23, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A tray of champagne cocktails rests on a table during a food and wine preview in preparation for the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - After years of resorting to less costly sparkling beverages, many wine experts said they will be popping champagne corks this New Year's Eve, which could be an indication of better economic times ahead.

A 2012 study by Karl Storchmann, an economics professor at New York University and managing editor of the Journal of Wine Economics, showed sales of French champagne are a fairly accurate indicator of Americans' future income.

"If you consider (sales of) champagne to be an economic indicator as some do, it ... has been growing significantly up since the 2008 recession, and we expect that growth to continue in 2013," said Sam Heitner, director of the trade association Champagne Bureau USA.

Lee Sanning, an economics professor at Whitman College and, like Storchmann, a member of the American Association of Wine Economists, agrees.

"Sales of luxury goods, including that of champagne, make good leading indicators," he said.

Richard Juhlin, whose book "A Scent of Champagne" boasts tasting notes and ratings for 8,000 champagnes, will be swilling some of the world's top of the line bottles this holiday season.

"We will have a five-course champagne dinner," Juhlin said.

While his choices have not been set in stone, Juhlin said he plans to serve Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2005, which sells for about $350 a bottle, as an aperitif, followed by a similarly priced 1988 Dom Ruinart to accompany the caviar.

He selected Perrier-Jouet 1996 Belle Epoque, at $150 a bottle, to serve with the turbot, a more expensive 1995 Bollinger ($225) for the partridge course and to accompany the cheese, a 1962 Krug Collection, which retails for about $2,000.

Not all wine experts will be serving such expensive vintages. Wine consultant and columnist Lisa Carley said her choice of champagne for the holidays is the Charles de Monrency Brut NV Reserve, priced about $30 a bottle.

"It's a lovely champagne that's elegant with aromas and flavors of honey, botanicals, citrus fruit and a bit of brioche," Carley explained.

For a special New Year's Eve wine she suggested Krug NV Rose, which sells for about $300.

For wine lovers on a smaller budget experts suggest sparkling wine to bring in 2014. Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, co-authors of "Wines of the Southern Hemisphere," suggest a Spanish sparkling wine.

"We always celebrate with cava and our favorite producer right now is Pere Ventura, who only uses the traditional method to make his cava," they said about the sparkling wine that sells for about $17 a bottle.

John Kapon, president of wine retailer and auctioneer Acker Merrall & Condit, recommends serving Fernanda Cappello Prosecco, Extra Dry ($18), at big holiday parties.

(Reporting by Leslie Gevirtz; Editing by David Gregorio)

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