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Champagne Prices Bubbling Over

October 22, 1990

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Congress may be talking about taxing millionaires, but they have other concerns just now.

You see, old chap, the cost of champagne is simply popping through the roof.

″Nobody can afford the French prices any more,″ said Mauricio de Fendi, wine manager at Scotti Wines & Liquors. ″Americans are experts in selling everything, but the French are stylish; they say, ’We don’t want to sell for a low price.‴

A year ago, the Wine Cask in Palm Beach Gardens sold a gift set of a bottle of Dom Perignon rose champagne and a $110 set of two Baccarat crystal glasses for a combined $250.

Today, it costs $230 just for the champagne.

Producers attribute the champagne crisis in part to the fall of the U.S. dollar, and in part to a too-successful marketing campaign.

″Democratization can sometimes go too far,″ explained Christian Bizot, chairman of the Bollinger champagne house.

During the past decade, French champagne producers marketed their product toward the masses. They did such a good job that worldwide sales last year hit 250 million bottles, up 75 percent since 1982.

″Our sales have gone up much too fast,″ said Jean-Michel Ducellier, president of the Ayala champagne house and chairman of the Association of Champagne Producers. ″We have kept our prices too low.″

People who now pay $24 for a bottom-of-the-line bottle of Moet & Chandon, Taittinger or Bollinger soon may have to spend $30 or more for a bottle. And the top-of-the-line bottles are expected to go from $80 to about $100 a bottle by the end of the year.

Patrick Poupart, the wine consultant at Hampton Liquors in Palm Beach, said the higher prices will drive many champagne buyers to sparkling wines from California and Spain.

Still, De Fendi said it’s bound to affect the lower end of the market more than the higher end.

″The people who buy Moet for $20 or $30 a bottle complain when it goes up a dollar,″ he said. ″But the people who buy Dom (Perignon) won’t care. If it was $200 a bottle, they’d just say, ‘Fine,’ and throw their credit card on the counter.″

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