Champagne crisis bubbles up in Hamptons

Oh, mon dieu!

There’s a champagne crisis in the Hamptons that’s forcing East End restaurateurs to fly in their own bubbly — or drink (gasp!) alternatives like cava.

The shortage is so bad that one of Zach Erdem’s billionaire customers plans to fly 15 cases of premium champagne on his private plane from France for his wife’s annual Hamptons birthday party.

Erdem, of 75 Main and Blu Mar, will then buy any leftovers to serve at the “unofficial after party” for Denise Rich’s 25th annual “Angel’s Ball,” which will be held in the Hamptons for the first time. 

The unofficial after-party will be held at Erdem’s Buddha Lounge at Blue Mar.“

The Champagne plane won’t let us down,” Erdem said. “Not having champagne in the Hamptons is like Maine not having lobsters.”It’s not just the partygoers who are “suffering.”

“I have one Russian billionaire who comes to the Hamptons for one week every summer, after stops in Ibiza, St Tropez and Mykanos,” Erdem said. “He always drinks Crystal at breakfast. I had to tell him to bring his own or I’ll be serving him a $10 bottle of Prosecco instead.”

Blake Leonard, vice president of Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits of Farmingdale in Long Island and a certified sommelier, said they saw the shortages coming and bought 500 cases of champagne in June. It’s been paying off big time.

‘We’re now delivering to the Hamptons for the first time, and the No. 1 item is champagne,” she said. “We are trying to buy up whatever we can get our hands on, as prices will shoot up in September. In the last year, champagne houses sold more than in the last eight years combined. It’s supply and demand.”

“We may have to start rationing soon,” Leonard joked. “You can’t just put bubbles in a bottle. It takes time.”

Things are so bad that at the Capri Hotel’s Naia Restaurant, Michael Pitsinos’ weekend pool parties are offering cava, or Spanish sparkling wine, as a champagne substitute.“

The Hamptons isn’t going French this summer at Naia due to the champagne shortage, so we’re making an Ibiza-themed pool party with tapas poolside. The customers are loving the fiesta,” Pitsinos said.

Of course, “there’s a shortage of everything” and not just champagne, explained Lee Schrager, senior vice president of communications for the Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirit of America, and founder of the New York City Wine and Food Festival.

“During the pandemic, the wine and spirits industry lost its hotel and restaurant accounts. When lockdown ended, the industry bounced back better and faster than expected,” he said.Still, it’s the champagne that wealthy Hamptonites are mourning, including Ian Duke’s Southampton Social Club.“The most popular nightclub items —  the high-end champagnes from Moet Chandon or Dom Perignon —  can’t be found,” Duke said.  

“They are out of stock, they come back, and then they disappear again,” said Duke, who explained that other nightclub staples, like a $900 Grey Goose magnum and a $1,942 magnum of Don Julio 1942, have also been in short supply.

Duke blames the crisis on a “perfect storm” of COVID-19 driving more people to the beach amid crippling supply chain woes and labor shortages that are hurting businesses everywhere.  “We have more people out here than ever and we can’t get the food or liquor or staff to provide for all of them,” Duke said.

“It all stems from COVID, which caused everyone to come out and buy houses, so no one who works here can afford to live here. Then there’s the entitlement factor and the fact that workers don’t want to work. They just want to stay home, and collect unemployment money,” Duke said. “Production then slowed when the restaurants and nightclubs shut down — and that came back to bite them in the rear.”

To handle the shortages, Duke says they promote what they have and “get by.”

“Although everyone is angry, upset and frustrated, they are still going out. This is just another way it has become more difficult for us to do our jobs, and we’ve had a rough go for 18 months. We could use a break somewhere along the line,” Duke said.

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