Forget the Y2K computer bug -- what about the champagne?December 30, 1998
Web posted at: 1:20 p.m. EST (1820 GMT)
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SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Americans bent on celebrating the dawn of the new millennium may have to pay through the nose to drink a domestic bottle of bubbly.
All the hype surrounding possible computer glitches as the date changes to the year 2000 is now being matched by rumors of a shortage of California champagne.
A bottle of the stuff may cost as much as an hour with a high-priced computer consultant by January 31, 1999.
"For the last three years I have felt like somebody standing on the beach with this giant wave coming at me and not really knowing what to do about it, because the wine for 1999 is already made," said Joy Sterling of Iron Horse Vineyards.
Sterling's family winery has reacted to the projected shortage by selling champagne futures -- $400 now buys a three-liter bottle of next November's champagne. That price will jump $50 each month.
French champagne may become a bargain by comparison.
"It's more likely there's going to be a shortage of California champagne and sparkling wines than there will be a shortage of French champagnes," said Richard Cartier of the Wine Market Report.
Some California wineries are positioning themselves for the projected windfall from the higher prices.
Korbel Champagne Cellars is sending a "super bottle" of champagne, 160 times the normal size, on tour to promote its product.
"Think of it like the Olympic torch -- we're going to run it throughout the United States, in 24 major cities," said Gary Heck of Korbel.
A run on the market?
Some savvy shoppers are already stocking up.
"We'll carry on buying a couple of bottles a month. We'll probably have 40 or 50 bottles in time for the millennium," said one couple in a California grocery.
But William Sherer, the wine sommelier at Moose's Restaurant, warned that it's not shortages from the wineries but hoarding by buyers that's sending his champagne prices up 10 to 20 percent.
Diners at his restaurant can easily expect to pay $200 for a bottle of champagne to accompany their meal, he said.
That price will also include "the ambiance and the memories," Sherer added.
Correspondent Don Knapp contributed to this report.
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