March 17th 2008
Dozens of new producers have been awarded the right to produce champagne under the first substantial expansion of the tightly controlled wine region since 1927.
Thirty eight communes (village districts) were named after decades of lobbying and feuding among councils and growers who are excluded from the official boundaries of champagne country. The champagne region was limited to vineyards in 319 communes in four departments mainly around Rheims and Epernay which has now been increased to 357.
The INAO, L’Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité determined how the potential vineyard plots measured up to criteria by assessing the typicity, history, landscape and environment. Stricter criteria will be applied to new sites than those currently included in the appellation so only good quality grapes are produced.
The acquisition of the champagne title will transform the value of vineyards that were producing humble sparkling wine by an estimated 200 times. Gilles Flutet of the INAO told the French news agency AFP earlier this month that, “If your vines fall on the wrong side of the divide, they will be worth â‚¬5,000 a hectare and on the other side they will be worth â‚¬1m.”
Actual plantings of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are not expected to take place until 2015 and as vines take three years to produce quality grapes and the bottled wine needs a further three years to mature, the first effects on volumes will not be seen on the market until 2021.
Global Champagne sales have risen sharply from 287m bottles in 2002 to a record 339m in 2007. The UK is the leading export market for champagne holding 26% share of all exports in 2007. Other mature markets such as USA, Germany and France have growth potential at the top end of the market but it is Russia, China and India which are showing the highest growth rates of 39%, 50%, 125% respectively. Nevertheless the volumes which they are selling only account for 0.6% of Champagne shipments in comparison to 85% in mature markets.