Toast with bubbly year-round, not just at New Year’s

New Year’s Eve is probably the furthest thing from most wine drinker’s mind as June brings summer-like temperatures, but winos need to think about Dec. 31 for summer vino picks.

Sales trends across the United States show sparkling wine or champagne sales increasing at significant rates. Bubbles aren’t just for ringing in the new year anymore.

Many point to Italy’s easy-to-drink Prosecco as the catapult for sparkling wine sales. As a matter of fact, Prosecco sales are up more than 25 percent in the latest year-to-date survey released in September.

Prosecco is a gateway to sparkling wine. The flavors are pleasing, the quality is usually outstanding, the bubbles are subdued and the price is right. Prosecco can be found at most good wine shops and some liquor stores for $12 and up.

But the sparkling category is climbing across the board from Prosecco to the considerably-more-expensive French champagnes. Over the same time period, champagne sales in the United States increased 10 percent, and that’s with an average price point of $50 a bottle.

If you combine all sparkling wine sales, America’s consumption has nearly doubled since 2000.

Indiana retailers share a similar story.

Two Indy wine retailers agreed the sparkling wine category is growing.

“Our sparkling sale are up this year with its trending toward inexpensive Cava (Spanish) and Prosecco that can be enjoyed as a mixer or just on its own,” Cork and Cracker owner Ron Miller said. “Our champagnes are doing well, but those are still more special occasion wines.”

A bit farther north in Carmel, Vine and Table sales seem to split between champagne and non-champagne sparklers.

“I would say we probably sell more champagne when it comes to people just wanting to enjoy a bottle of bubbles,” wine buyer Brendan Kennedy said. “For events or for people entertaining, there’s definitely more of a demand for Prosecco, Cava and domestic sparkling wines because they can hit a lower price point that’s just not possible for true champagne.”

Kennedy agreed Prosecco is getting more people into sparkling wines.

“The level of carbonation is a bit lower than most, and I think that appeals to people who don’t regularly drink sparkling wine,” he said. “I could certainly see more Prosecco producers following that model.”

The Carmel shop buyer goes a bit further to predict increasing sales of the dry Brut wines. He noted a tasting done during the fall where the most popular pours were dry Brut wines and Dry Rosé Brut with zero residual sugar.

“I would say we sell probably four bottles of white sparkling for every bottle of Rosé,” Kennedy said. “It seems we’ve been near that ratio for the last three or four years. While sales of Rosés take off in the warmer weather, the sparkling Rosés usually don’t see nearly the same amount of love.”

Miller said customers still ask for Prosecco more than any other sparkler, but Rose and traditional champagne sales are up.

“I have always loved sparkling rose, and we do well. Our top selling is Camille Braun Cremant d’alsace brut rose at $26.99,” he said. “We also have a couple of less expensive roses that do well, too.”

One thing both wine retailers can agree on is bubbles should not be limited to the holidays.

“Sparkling wine is our second biggest wine category after Cabernet Sauvignon,” Kennedy said. “We’ve found that people can forget how crisp and refreshing a bottle of bubbles can be in the summer. We’ve occasionally made easy-to-make sparkling wine cocktails such as an Aperol spirtz or St. Germain cocktails in hopes that people will be drinking sparkling year-round and not just for special and celebratory occasions.”

Miller agreed and said sparkling wines pair well with almost any food. He will often recommend a sparkling wine when customers aren’t sure what to serve.

“Starting any party with a sparkling wine always seems to set the mood,” Miller said. “I have never seen a frown when I was handing someone a glass of bubbles. Sparkling wine is also the acceptable breakfast alcohol. It doesn’t always have to be 5 o’clock somewhere.”

Howard W. Hewitt of Crawfordsville writes about wine every other week for more than 25 Indiana newspapers and websites. He can be reached at: hewitthoward@gmail.com