With demand for Champagne soaring, limits on who can use the name for the French and French only special sparkling wine are coming under pressure to relax a little. Producers in the north-eastern French growing region are eagerly awaiting a government decision early this coming spring. This would extend to as many as 40 more villages the right to use the coveted AOC label.
For those with interests here, cultivation could become like mining gold. With a surface area of 33,500 hectares of land as AOC-worthy, the average price per hectare has risen to 600,000 euros. Turnover in the champagne market this year is forecast to attain six billion euros. Yet there are bound to be losers as well as winners.
As the criteria for expanding the AOC boundaries are strict, in the interest of keeping quality irreproachable, the head of the region’s interprofessional committee predicts malcontents bringing thousands of court cases, for example from vineyards at the edge of approved territory .
Of the growing demand there is no question, notably in China and Russia. As it stands, France’s cellars are estimated to have more than a billion bottles of Champagne in the racks. Those in the precious grape business are serious about there being plenty more where that came from, although the average nearly two euros per year rise in price per bottle shows little sign of slowing.