More Bubbles for Everyone
Around 55% of the Champagne sold each year is popped open, sipped and savoured in France itself. That doesn’t leave much for the rest of us, especially when you consider how many bottles are wasted naming ships and showering victorious football players. But help is at hand. Faced with rising worldwide demand, the government body that regulates where Champagne can be grown has proposed expanding the area – currently 327 sq km – for the first time since 1927. As of 2017, 40 more villages began planting their very first official Champagne vines – the final product is expected to be marketed in 2021. Not surprisingly, the exact delineation of the new vineyards has been hugely controversial, not least because the value of land declared Champagne-worthy will rise by up to 30,000%, to about €1 million per hectare!
Large maisons (Champagne houses) with global brand recognition send a high percentage of their production to other countries (Moët & Chandon, for example, exports 80% of its bubbly). But the region’s 4800 small producers (known as récoltants-manipulants because they both harvest the grapes and turn the juice into wine) continue to serve an almost exclusively domestic clientele.
The global thirst for French fizz shows no sign of waning – 2017 was another great year for Champagne sales, with 307.6 million bottles sold, thanks to growing demand from export markets, buoyant currencies and increased sales in France. Coupled with the fact that the region was finally awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 2015, it seems that Champagne does indeed have good reason to celebrate.