France aims to extend Champagne region

The French national appellations body will look to add 40 new communes to the already vast Champagne region in order to cater for increased demand.

Twenty-two villages in the Marne department, 15 in the Aube, two in the Haute-Marne and one commune in the l’Aisne have been put forward as having suitable typicity of terroir to grow grapes to make Champagne.

The list of new villages was drawn up by a panel of experts appointed by the French appellations body l’Institut national de la qualité et de l’origine (INAO). The INAO began a review of the Champagne classification two years ago at the request of the SGV (Syndicat générale des Vignerons).

The experts looked at all aspects of the local environment including soil, subsoil, slopes and aspect before producing their report.

‘The object is clear, it is necessary to preserve the typicity of Champagne,’ said Patrick le Brun, head of the main growers union in Champagne, the SGV.

A dossier, described by local INAO representative Eric Champion as ‘neutral and independent’, will be presented to the governing council of the SGV and, if accepted, it will be passed to the national committee of the INAO in Paris in November.

If it is approved by the INAO, a public consultation will follow early next year.

Although new vineyards are unlikely to be planted before 2017, there are signs that demand will soon outsrip supply. Shipments of Champagne came to nearly 333m bottles in the last year, compared to an average annual production over the past decade (1997-2006) of just under 330m bottles.

In the short-term it is hoped that raising the maximum yield to 15,500kg/ha between 2007 and 2011 could raise production as high as 430m bottles.

The Champagne appellation currently has a production area of 35,208ha spread across 319 villages.

Written by Giles Fallowfield