Champagne producers are enthusiastically embracing environmental guidelines laid down by the CIVC (Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne).

The CIVC’s ‘Guide Pratique’ to viticulture raisonnee – ‘well thought-out viticulture’ – is an exhaustive 200-page action plan for growing grapes without harming the environment. Launched in January 2001, vignerons are expected to comply by completing the sections of the action plan throughout the growing cycle.

Despite the quantity of red tape involved, winemakers believe the future lies in compliance. They accept that AOC status might be withdrawn for non-compliance when the Code became obligatory.

Jean-Jacques Lasalle, winemaker at Champagne house Canard-Duchêne told decanter.com. ‘Around 30-40 per cent of wineries are interested now – and the rest will follow.’

Lasalle said the understanding was that the AOC status of any producer that did not comply with the guidelines would be withdrawn. He stressed that the rules were not imposed by remote bureaucrats but voted by winemakers themselves, who made up the local committees of the CIVC.

He used the expression ‘boule de neige’ (snowball) to describe the rate at which viticulture raisonnee was being followed by Champagne houses, and stressed that the additional bureaucracy was no burden when all were working together to improve quality throughout the region.

CIVC spokeswoman Francoise Peretti said no date has been set for the integretion of viticulture raisonnee within the AOC framework.

‘Everybody is eager for integration but there are various administrative routes that have to be followed. There is no doubt that it will happen at some date.’

Written by Adam Lechmere8 July 2002