Champagne: With or Without Herbicide?

The winegrowers' association of Champagne, Association Viticole Champenoise (AVC), have pledged to become CO2-neutral by 2050 and be free of herbicides by 2025 as much as possible. This was announced by the two co-chairs of the Comité Champagne, Maxime Toubart and David Chatillon, at the general assembly on 8 December 2022. 

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Winegrowers and producers in Champagne are calling for a mandatory ban on herbicides by 2025 (Photo: Hesam Wide Shot/stock.adobe.com)
Winegrowers and producers in Champagne are calling for a mandatory ban on herbicides by 2025 (Photo: Hesam Wide Shot/stock.adobe.com)

The goal is to produce with 75% less carbon and to offset the rest through emission credits. The issue of herbicide reduction has been a hot topic in recent months. This was first decided at the general assembly in 2018. The goal then, according to President Toubart, was "to be able to speak of a 100 per cent sustainable, committed and exemplary Champagne in a few years and to use 'zero herbicides'" However, he later revised this in April 2022 and let it be known that: "The ban on herbicides will not be included in the Champagne AOC specification".
 

Strong goal, but not obligatory

Since then, there have been fierce protests and negotiations on the part of winegrowers and producers, culminating in an open letter from 125 winegrowers to the French newspaper "Le Monde". They demanded adherence to the set goals of no herbicides. As Jérôme Bourgeois, president of the Association Biologique Champenoise (ACB) told Wine-Searcher: "It's unacceptable for a prestigious appellation like Champagne to go back on a key environmental promise made five years ago, especially in today's ecological climate."

At the recent meeting, Toubart announced that not using herbicides was a "strong goal" but should "not be an obligation" for growers, as it could otherwise get some into trouble. He told media: "Taking into account technical, human and financial constraints, it is not always possible to abandon herbicides as quickly as one would like. Adding a new obligation to the specifications means making it obligatory for 100 per cent of winegrowers. And this is where our debate lies". ITP

 

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