Champagne is big these days. Aside from its ubiquitous presence at red carpet galas, the high-end tipple’s popularity has skyrocketed among the world’s expanding middle class. Global consumption rates have grown by five to seven per cent annually in recent years, fuelled by 30 per cent increases in emerging nations like India and Russia, while in China, a generation with newly disposable income is doubling the amount of bubbly it drinks each year. To keep
up with the growing demand, the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine, the body that governs France’s wine appellation system, has approved a proposal to expand the country’s Champagne region—the only place authorized to produce true champagne, as opposed to sparkling wine—for the first time since its viticultural boundaries were designated in 1927.
The plan involves adding 40 new territories totalling more than 1,000 hectares to the famed district, which currently encompasses 34,000 hectares. With current prices for a planted hectare in Champagne nearing $2 million, the lucky few with plots inside the new borders will likely be popping a few bottles of their own. While some claim the expansion will diminish quality, many of the top producers are eager for the chance to buy more grapes and boost production. “It is just good news,” says Jean-Marie Barillère ofMoët Hennessy. “More grapes of better quality.”
The proposed expansion still has to be approved by the government, which may take up to a year. New grapevines wouldn’t be fully planted until 2015, which means the champagne wouldn’t start flowing until the early 2020s. In the meantime, whether you’re a fan of Dom Pérignon or a more modestly priced bubbly, you can count on paying more for your favourite bottle next New Year’s. M
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