Here's a really poorly informed and misleading article from Time about the 2009 Champagne harvest, just to prove that you can't believe everything you read. I just returned from Champagne, and I can tell you first hand that it's a very good vintage (the grapes look extraordinarily good for the most part) and that these rumors of turmoil are extremely overstated.
First of all, no grapes are being left on the vine for birds. The CIVC, an interprofessional association of growers and negociants decided that in view of the economy that a certain amount of the crop should be used only for reserve wines. These reserve wines will supplement the quality of future vintages and should bolster the quality of future non-vintage wines. 2009 is likely to be a fine vintage, which will allow winemakers to make some exceptional vintage wines, which carry a higher price tag. Many of these wines won't be released for 5 to 10 years, by which time the current recession will be ancient history.
Champagne has been very price-stable in recent years. In fact, prices have been climbing, in no small part due to the weak value of the dollar.This article cites a decline in sales from 339 million cases in 2007 to 322 million cases in 2008, which represents a decline of 5% during a terrible economic decline, the most dire stretch of which occurred in Q4 of 2008, the most important quarter for sparkling wine sales. How many businesses saw a decline of only 5% in 2008?! 2009 figures are not in yet, but that doesn't stop the author from projecting zero sales for Q4. Come on!
A first rate, bountiful harvest is good news for growers and negociants in Champagne. Unfortunately, with news outlets like Time paying less and less for good reporting, we're seeing more and more articles like this, largely regurgitated from likewise inaccurate previous articles on the topic published in the Wall Street Journaly - unprofessional and sensational to a fault.
Here is a more reasonable and articulate article on the topic...