Champagne Issues: Toronto Restaurants Facing Big Name Champagne Shortage

Restaurants are back and Despite a fourth wave of COVID-19, many people find reason to celebrate, so much so that the city’s high-end establishments are faced with a shortage of a party favor that has suddenly been in demand again: champagne.

“We’ve seen a huge increase,” says James Peden, director of corporate wines and lead sommelier at Liberty Entertainment Group, of the demand for champagne.

According to the high-end restaurants and suppliers Star spoke with, sourcing big-name bottles has become a challenge due to a combination of a pickup in demand, as restaurants reopen and people plan long-postponed events. , and supply chain problems, leaving many establishments struggling not to leave their customers drugged and dry.

Peden, who oversees restaurants like Don Alfonso 1890 and BlueBlood Steakhouse, both in Casa Loma, and Liberty Grand, an entertainment complex that hosts weddings and social events, said there has been a drought of “the big brands that people are used to seeing, ”Like Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon.

He said his team of sommeliers have been able to showcase other Champagnes they have studied, “but if you don’t have someone with wine knowledge on your staff, it would be difficult.”

Alfredo Rodríguez, owner of Blu Ristorante, an Italian restaurant in the city center, has also been unable to find well-known brands of champagne. He says he is selling more champagne than ever in the 13 years the business has been in business, as many customers have recently come for celebrations.

“They crave this kind of service and have extra money to spend,” he said, as many of his customers have been stuck dining at home during the COVID-19 shutdowns.

With a cabin up north, Rodriguez has found himself clearing the champagne shelves at LCBO in Midland and Penetanguishene, both cities in Ontario’s Simcoe County, while visiting his vacation spot.

“We ended up buying some other Champagnes that I had never heard of in my life, but there is nothing else,” he added, noting that nearly 50 percent of the restaurant’s wine list has been difficult to locate.

The LCBO said that due to “increased global demand for champagne, suppliers are working to keep up with the growing demand.”

However, although much of the champagne contained in its website appears to be unavailable, a spokesperson said that “the general champagne inventory at the LCBO remains available in sufficient quantities at this time for our customers throughout the province.

“We will continue to closely monitor availability and inventory,” the spokesperson told Star in an email.

Jeff Osborne of Breakthru Beverage Group, a liquor wholesaler, said the shortage has left him barely able to fill orders from the city’s high-profile restaurants, many of which sell up to three times as much champagne.

He said one reason for the shortage is the lack of shipping containers and wooden pallets in which the champagne boxes are exported.

“The suppliers, even when they are ready to go, have not been ready to ship because they did not have the containers or the pallets and that is part of a larger problem in the international supply chain,” he said.

Another problem affecting the champagne shortage is a recent strike that took place in the port of Montreal, according to Osborne. The strike, which began in late April with more than 1,000 dock workers, led to a total shutdown.

“Specifically Champagne has been delayed due to strikes at the port that have delayed things for several months,” he said.

Although the strike is over, the delay it created is not, he said. Orders that normally take eight weeks to get from Champagne, France, to a restaurant in Toronto, can take almost twice as long to arrive now.

This past week, Osborne drove through the GTA, stopping at numerous LCBOs to pick up as many bottles of champagne he could to fill an order.

“I think that’s a nod that people are celebrating more now that things are back, but that also in turn has an impact on the supply chain.”

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