French plan to expand Champagne appellation

by Wine

What’s in a name?  Nothing and everything if you’re planting champagne grapes.

I find this bizarre and somewhat annoying.  Everyone knows “true champagne” comes from the Champagne region in France.  Everything bubbly outside of this area is just sparkling wine.  For some arbitrary reason, grapes grown on one side of the line are expensive and coveted while the other grapes are just grapes.  This random designation is called “appellation”.

The champagne name was originally protected in the Treaty of Madrid (1891) and later added to the Treaty of Versailles after World War One just in case anyone forgot.  The French are so protective of this name they have even stopped the town of Champagne, Switzerland from using their own town’s name on any wine sold.  They cannot put Champagne on the bottle.  The French will surrender anything to just about everyone, but never on the Champagne name.

champagne region

The only place where the one true Champagne is grown can't be grown anywhere else, unless the French decide to make the one true area bigger.

The purpose is to control who can use the “champagne name”.  You wouldn’t want a wine from Egypt labeled “champagne” if you were looking to purchase real thing from France (however the name “Camel Piss Champagne” might give it away).  This nomenclature mixup would be misleading to the consumer, and creates room for deceit on the part of the seller.

Appellation also makes a big difference in the price you can sell your grapes.  On one side of the line you can get 1 million Euros per hectare of grapes.  If your grapes are on the wrong side of the line, they are worth only 5,000 Euros per hectare.  That is a HUGE difference in price.

The true purpose of this appellation is money and greed.  A grape grown on one side of the line does not guarantee the flavor is any better than a grape grown on the wrong side of the appellation line.

If there is any doubt this is purely a money thing – get this.  The French don’t think they are making enough champagne for the world.  Markets in Russia, China and Japan are driving up the demand for the “special” sparkling wine.  How do they solve this problem?  They redraw the lines of course.

You read that right.  The French are planning to extend the region by 2,500 acres.  Grapes which were once labeled substandard are now worth a cool million per hectare.  It’s that easy.  Growers who are on the right side of the fence will see their crop values skyrocket.  These grapes are greener than the other side.

So next time someone breaks out a bottle of “true” champagne, you will have to ask yourself, “is this the one and only champagne from inside the box before 2008, or is this the one and only champagne from just outside the old box but still inside the new box after 2008”.  Of course your grandfather will be quick to point out the champagne from his day was even better, back before they redrew the lines in 1927.

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DJ Spiess

DJ Spiess

Beer buddy

I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby!