Panel by Dr Elinor Garely
Blaine Ashley, Founder, New York Champagne Week
There have been times over this past year when chocolate and martinis were not the answer; however, there has never been a problem that a glass of Champagne could not solve.
The art and science of Champagne has been carefully crafted by growers for generations with a mission: to identify and highlight the personality of each terroir, based on traditional growing techniques that encourage the unique beauty and quality of the wine while protecting the environment. Champagne is the ID for sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region of France. It is produced from specific grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and other grapes with specific vineyard practices.
When Less is Less
Champagne is the wine choice for a small, quality-focused market, where consumers are comfortable paying a premium price for quality. Champagne, frequently associated with friends, fun, good times, and celebrations, has not been the beverage of choice since COVID-19 began to dominate our lives.
Before the pandemic Champagne sales had stopped growing in an expanding sparkling wine market. In 2018, the Champagne market was valued at $5.8 billion, and it was estimated to reach $7.4 billion by 2026. However, in 2020, Americans consumed less Champagne, disappointing more than 15,000 producers as they watched sales decline by more than 20 percent, the worst decline since WWII. Total champagne sales in 2020 were capped at 245 million bottles, down from almost 300 million in 2019 leading to a $1.2 billion fall in value.
The laws of the European Union (EU) dictate that champagne producers cannot label their products as Champagne unless the wine comes from the Champagne region of France. The EU also demands that champagne can only be produced under the strict rules of appellation and cover practices required for carbonation, sourcing of grapes, specific vineyard practices and region specific unique pressing methods.
Grape harvests, usually scheduled for August, have been pushed towards mid-to-late September because of climate change. Increasing temperatures and difficulty in maturation is resulting in lower acidity for grapes which can result in reduced freshness for wines.
Future of Bubbles
Wine industry executives are optimistic about the future as people are trading up, spending more on bottles of wine than before the lockdown. It has been reported that in December 2020, Champagne sales were up 31 percent in volume and 32 percent compared to the previous 3-month average.
If you want a source of information about Champagne, there is only one New Yorker you need to link to – Blaine Ashley. Since 2013 Ashley has been enhancing the visibility of Champagne through well-designed and informative Champagne tastings, pairing experiences, brand launches, new release reveals, interactive seminars, and, beginning in 2018 a series of special events, The Fizz is Female featuring sparkling wine made, owned and/or led by women.
COVID-19 pushed Ashley’s events to virtual and now she shares the New York Champagne experience with fizz-fans in 39 states through an e-commerce partner, Wired for Wine. In 2016, Wine Enthusiast identified Ashley as one of 40-under-40 Tastemakers for her original approach to Champagne marketing.
Ashley attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and was awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Marketing with a French minor. Prior to forming her own organization, Ashley was the drinks and travel editor for Modern Luxury and Haute Living magazines and published a monthly column in Tasting Panel and Destinations Travel.
On February 19, 2021, Blaine Ashley will address the challenges facing the Champagne industry, reviewing the ways in which industry leaders addressed the pandemic and sinking demand, and how they are developing new paths toward market recovery and growth in 2021 and beyond.
Friday, 19 FEB 2021
02.30 pm Hawaii
03.30 pm Alaska
04.30 pm PST California | BC
05.30 pm MST Denver
06.30 pm CST Chicago | Texas
07.30 pm EST New York | Ontario | Jamaica
08.30 pm Puerto Rico
09.30 pm Argentina | Brazil
Saturday, 20FEB 2021
12.30 am UK | Portugal | Ghana
1.30 am CET Germany | Italy | Tunisia
2.30 am Greece | Jordan | Israel | South Africa
3.30 am Saudi Arabia | Kenya
4.30 am UAE | Seychelles
6.00 am India
07.30 am Thailand | Jakarta
08.30 am Hong Kong | Singapore | Bali
09.30 Japan | Korea
10.30 am Guam
11.30 am Sydney
1.30 pm New Zealand