Demands for Champagne Forces Restructure

The world is demanding more bubbly and France, in efforts to accommodate, has lobbied to restructure the legal zone of Champagne. 

The NY Times reported Saturday, the territory that has remained intact for nearly a century could face expansion when the issue enters appeals Friday.  This would allow surrounding growers to contribute their grapes to Champagne winemaking, a $7 billion industry, under the French seal of approval, the “Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée” or A.O.C.

The annual production, which is projected to increase from 100 million bottles, to 430 million, comes at the surge of public demand. 

A spike in production aims to circumvent the creeping inflation of Champagne wines, which is feared could hinder new successes in emerging middle class markets.  In 2007 sales jumped by 43 percent from the previous year and has been attributed to the growing economies of China, Russia and India.

Unfortunately for the U.S. market, where imports have dropped by more than 6 percent since last year, Champagne officials have warned of waning interests.

“The U.S. today is not our priority,” Céline Voide of Boizel Chanoine Champagne, told the NY Times, after recently closing a subsidiary in New York.  “We prefer to concentrate on Europe and Asia.”

Nevertheless, some in the industry haven’t reached Mr. Voide’s level of asperity and explain that the restructuring of Champagne is also in attempt to retain the U.S. market. 

Ghislain de Montgolfier, leader of the Union of Champagne Houses, a trade industry group, told the NY Times, “The euro is rising and the dollar is falling, and soon we’ll have a real structural problem if the cost of the grape keeps increasing every year.”

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