France's protected Champagne region has been significantly extended for the first time since 1927 in an attempt to ease the enormous unfulfilled demand for the quality wine.
The Appellation d’Origine Contrtll?e (AOC), to the east of Paris, has been extended to include 38 new communes, raising the total to 357. Previously 15,000 growers were looking after just 34,000 hectares.
From this acreage the AOC was producing 360 million bottles a year, of which 32 million were sold to Britain – one of the biggest consumers, with the industry turning over around 4 billion Euros.
With the markets continually growing, particularly rapidly in China and Russia, French vineyards were pushed to keep up, even allowing for stunting supply to fuel demand.
The name champagne has been fiercely protected for generations, with the trade association the Comit? Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) now constantly protecting its exclusive nature – including fighting in courts to stop the name being applied to perfumes, sweets and myriad other products as well as non AOC sparkling wines.
Only three grape varieties can be grown for champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and strict quality regulations govern yield, minimum ageing, pruning, height and density.
The boundaries are expected to be hotly contested as they will have enormous impact on the value of land.