The TGV is France’s high-speed intercity rail service. Whether traveling from downtown Paris or Charles de Gaulle Airport, the TGV will get you to Reims — the heart of the Champagne region — in less than an hour.
Normally, the mood in Reims is celebratory. After all, the product for which the region is known — sparkling wine — is the acknowledged worldwide beverage of celebration. But there’s not much celebrating taking place in Reims right now because there isn’t much going on anywhere.
Weddings? Postponed indefinitely.
International travel? On hold.
Ocean and river cruises? Docked.
Dining out? Limited.
As a result, there is a glut of Champagne in quantities unseen since the Great Depression. Producers say they have lost $2 billion in sales this year, and the destiny of this year’s grape crop will be determined at a Champagne Committee meeting that is scheduled for Aug. 18.
At that meeting, a tight cap could be placed on growers and producers that would limit the production of additional Champagne, thus preventing the sell-off of existing bottles at fire-sale prices. The grapes not used for wine likely would be sold to distillers that would transform them into alcohol to use in producing hand sanitizer.
According to an Associated Press report, even if that happens, there likely will be about 100 million bottles languishing in the cellars of Reims and neighboring communities — waiting for Americans and other people around the world to have their reasons to pop the corks restored.
Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that sparkling wine of all types — including Champagne from France, Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Spain — does not require a celebration to be savored.
Sparkling wine makes an ideal companion to spicy food because the bubbles and the fresh mouthfeel it creates mitigate the “hotness” of the spice in the food. Whereas that spice can overpower the flavors of other wines, it co-exists amicably with sparkling wine.
So let’s raise a glass of bubbly to your favorite spicy fare, and help the vintners of Champagne ride out these unparalleled circumstances.