Champagne crisis “unprecedented”

After difficult negotiations, the Champenois have agreed to cut their production. James Lawrence has the story.

Reims/Photo by Adlan on Unsplash
Reims/Photo by Adlan on Unsplash

After weeks of difficult negotiations, the Champagne industry has agreed to set a maximum yield for the 2020 harvest.

CIVC president Jean-Marie Barillère announced today that the maximum permitted yield in Champagne is 8,000 kg per hectare – equivalent to 230m bottles.
“Champagne is going through a serious crisis of a scale unprecedented since the Second World War,” said Barillère.

This new yield is 2,200kg less than the permitted maximum in 2019, which was 10,200 kg/ha. In abundant years, maximum yields of 15,500 kg/ha are authorised by the AOC regulations.

However, both the CIVC and the Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC) have been campaigning to drastically lower the volume of grapes harvested in 2020, in light of declining global shipments.

The joint president of both the CIVC and UMC had previously stated that he wanted the maximum yield to be set at 7,000kg/ha. This was fiercely opposed by the Syndicat Général des Vignerons de la Champagne, which is an influential growers union. However, after a series of protracted discussions, both sides reached a compromise at 8,000 kg/ha. Ironically, growers were already anticipating a severely reduced harvest – irrespective of the official yield announcement.

“We decided yesterday to delay our harvest at Philipponnat, since the terrible drought (even drier than 2019) has slowed down growth and ripening,” explained Charles Philipponnat.

He added that the controversy surrounding the CIVC’s decision was something of a misnomer, as the growing conditions had not been conducive to generous yields.

“We’ll harvest all our parcels and we will honour all our contracts with other growers,” he said. “As always, grapes beyond the official AOC yield (if any) may be made into wine and must eventually be distilled or turned into vinegar one year later.”

The severe decline of the global hospitality trade has hit Champagne hard. 

The CIVC has released a statement suggesting that the overall decline in global shipments may be as high as 100 million bottles in 2020, when compared to 2019.

James Lawrence

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