By Boyd Champness

VICTORIAN and South Australian wine companies are struggling to keep up with the pre-Millennium demand for sparkling wine here and overseas as revellers rush to toast in the new century.

According to a report in The Age newspaper, bottles of Australian bubbly to help celebrate the new millennium are in such high demand that winemakers in Victorias Yarra Valley and South Australias Barossa Valley have bumped up their production levels by more than 40% compared with last year.

Winery Domaine Chandon, in Victorias Yarra Valley and a major player in the premium market, has increased production by 42% in past year to meet demand for its new brand, Chandon Brut.

The winery has also increased exports to the United Kingdom by 80% after its Chandon Vintage Brut won the International Sparkling Wine of the Year award in Britain.

Meanwhile, BRL Hardy, Australias second largest wine company, has cranked its bottling line up to full speed to meet the anticipated 100% surge in sales of bubbly leading up to Christmas and the New Year.

It sells the big-selling Sir James brand and has launched a premium champagne, Arras, in time for 2000.