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Frances Bentley is the Scottish Sales Manager for Champagne Duval-Leroy and can be contacted on 07824 775862.
April 2011
A revolution is afoot in Champagne. The region is poised to undertake the controversial plan to re-evaluate the original boundaries in which grapes can be grown, which were established in 1927. During the next four years, a team from the CIVC (the body which monitors the region) will taste wines from all of the villages, current and prospective, to determine what qualifies as Champagne. The findings will be submitted to two public enquiries and a professional one before the new boundaries are declared sometime in 2016. And with 5,000 hectares of new vineyard proposed (on top of the existing 300,000) plus land prices in the region arguably the most expensive in France, bickering has set in between the growers and the champagne houses as to who stands to benefit.


Is this greed? Are the Champenois really so in need of pocket money for Gauloise that they want to extend boundaries to boost production? It depends on who you talk to. Consumers are horrified at what they see as a very cynical move, however, the wine trade has been broadly supportive.


Re-tasting all of the vineyards will allow for the region's boundaries to be based on quality, as opposed to in Bordeaux where the classifications are based on the prices that the wines were fetching in 1855. It's difficult to imagine the Bordelaise making such a bold move as to change their classification system to focus on product rather than the price-tag.


Champagne is taking a progressive and provocative step in reviewing their boundaries; indeed, this is far more a re-evaluation than an extension.  The proposed additions do not so much extend the region as fill in the gaps where one would expect vines to already exist.


The first new areas will be granted permission to plant in 2017, but there won't be any fruit worth harvesting for a further two to three years, and nothing would hit the shelves until 2021, providing there are no delays. Will all of this improve the wines of the region? Time will tell; the new growers will have to find buyers and with such young land it may be a harder sell than they suspect.


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