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Don’t panic about a Champagne shortage, says union chief

Wine drinkers will see Champagne prices rise over the next few years, but there's no need to panic about a shortage following this year's frost-hit harvest, say producers.

The Champagne region has been hit by a devastating combination of frost, hail, mildew and rot in the 2016 growing season.

The result is an expected average yield across the region of 7,000-7,500kg of grapes per hectare (ha) of vineyard.

That’s well down on the 10,800kg/ha maximum set by the Champagne authorities in July.

But Champagne reserves currently stand at a relatively high level – roughly 7,500kg/ha prior to this year’s harvest – meaning that, even after about 3,500kg/ha is taken out of the reserve, there should be enough left to cover at least one more bad year.

‘Continuing price increases’

Jean Marie Barillère, president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne, said that he does not expect any shortage of Champagne ‘for the next five or six years’.

But he added that prices will still rise.

‘As you know, demand for sparkling wines continues to grow, and Champagne production is limited by definition (Appellation of Origin). As there is a lot of improvement in terms of quality, particularly in farming, I expect continuing price increases for the next years.’

‘Make or break’ for Aube in 2017

Some growers in the southern Aube area face a make-or-break harvest in 2017.

The Aube is home to about one-quarter of Champagne’s vineyards, frost, hail and mildew have reduced average yields to about 2,500-3,000kg/ha.

Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, chef de caves at Champagne Louis Roederer, said: ‘In this case, it is more a question of economic sustainability for the growers than a question of shortage of wine or price rise.’

He said that he did not think growers would hit serious trouble this year, as they would be aided by family, co-operatives, négociants or their bank. But he added, ‘[The] next harvest will be important for them!’

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