If Congress can't come to an agreement with the White House on New Year's Eve to broker a deal that will avert the "fiscal cliff," the economic mood of the country could be far less than bubbly tomorrow.
But you wouldn't know it from talking to the wine directors at high-end restaurants from coast to coast. Many of them are expecting strong sales of sparkling wine and Champagne on Monday night for New Year's Eve. Some told HuffPost that upscale diners seem more eager than they have at any point since the financial crash of 2008 to ring in 2013 with a glass -- or bottle -- of expensive Champagne.
"I expect it will be more than it has been in past years. I've noticed a trend -- particularly over this past holiday season -- of a marked increase in sparkling wine sales, both by the glass and by bottle," Brad Nugent, wine and spirits manager at high-end steakhouse Porter House New York, told The Huffington Post.
The bullishness of American restaurateurs and sommeliers stands in stark contrast to sour reports of Champagne sales that have come out of Europe in recent months, reflecting broad trends in the market. Demand for the product from high-end consumers in Asia and North America has been growing just fast enough to offset steep declines in sales in large European markets such as France and the United Kingdom.
Matthew Kirkley, the chef at two-Michelin-star restaurant L2O in Chicago, was among those who told HuffPost that they expect Champagne sales this year to top those last year, a fact Kirkley attributed to "more confidence in the consumer marketplace with luxury products." Kirkley noted that New Year's Eve is "without a doubt" the biggest night for sparkling wine sales of the year.
Oliver Flosse, wine director for A Voce in New York City, said the same was true at the two locations of his high-end Italian restaurant. "People have experienced so much stress this year," Flosse said. "And New Year’s is the perfect excuse to relieve the tensions and have fun."
Many restaurants have stocked up on extra booze for the night in anticipation of strong sales. The sommeliers of several restaurants contacted by HuffPost noted that they would be pouring glasses of Champagne from large-format bottles purchased just for the evening. O Ya, an acclaimed Japanese restaurant in Boston, will be supplementing its selection of sparkling wines with several varieties of sparkling sake, manager Alyssa M. DiPasquale told HuffPost.
Sarah Rosenberg, a representative for Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan, said that the three-Michelin-star restaurant had "amped up [its] champagne list to feature over 100 different selections spread over numerous styles." The restaurant will also be selling four special bottles, including Krug 'Grande Cuvee,' on a Champagne cart roving through the dining room all night, Rosenberg said.
Of course, it's also possible to overstate the increase in sparkling sales that accompanies the New Year -- especially when the holiday falls on a Monday, as it does this year, and especially in cities without ready access to non-automotive transit for the inebriated (like Los Angeles).
Robert Harpest, the sommelier at Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles, said he stocked up on extra Champagne for sale by the glass, but added that he didn't expect bottles to sell unusually well. "A lot of amateur wine buyers will stock up on champagne for New Year’s only to find that they are still sitting on some of that inventory the following New Year’s," he said.
Christopher Miller, the beverage director at Spago in Beverly Hills, which is also owned by Wolfgang Puck, agreed. "While Champagne sales are a bit higher on the night, quite a few people just buy special wines that evening –- not necessarily of the sparkling category," he said. "So we sell a lot of high-end California and French that night, usually more so than bottle sales of Champagne."
Likewise, Helen Johannessen, the wine director at New American restaurants Animal and Son of a Gun in Los Angeles, said that although Champagne sales on New Year's Eve are "at least double compared to other nights," she often feels disappointed by them.
"I always dream that on New Year's Eve, each restaurant will fill with the mirth and pop of Champagne flowing from every table," she said. "But the truth is we don't sell as much as one would expect."
If you aren't in the restaurant business, you might not have any specific expectations for what sales might be. For that reason, we asked various sommeliers and restaurateurs exactly how much Champagne they expect to sell this New Year's Eve. Click through the slideshow below to find out what they said.