Champagne project promotes cooperation

5th March, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt

Growers and brand owners have united to increase the quality and value of Champagne through a project dubbed 2030.

Pascal Férat (left) and Ghislain de Montgolfier captured together for the launch of Project Champagne 2030. Photo courtesy of http://www.lunion.presse.fr

Conceived one year ago, but officially launched during a meeting of the Association Viticole Champenoise (AVC) in December, Project 2030 was created to improve the longterm health of the region, both for those selling the wines, but also those working in the vineyards.

Ghislain de Montgolfier, president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC) since 2007 ­– although retiring from the post this month – told the drinks business that the growers and houses “want to improve Champagne together.”

Although tension between the producers and brand owners is common – usually due to grape prices – de Montfolfier stated that Project 2030 had brought “communal targets” which will require both parties “to work well together”.

Speaking of the motivation for the project, he added, “We think that we have to protect the image of Champagne not just through the legal system but by increasing knowledge of the product, as well as the quality and sustainability.”

Further impetus for the project stems from a need to add value to Champagne. Although the region is approaching a production limit of 370 million bottles (based on an average yield of 12,400 kg/ha), margins for brand owners are declining.

Indeed, figures shows that between 1971 and 2011 the volume of Champagne produced has increased by 28%, but the value has only risen by 4%.

In particular, the average price for a bottle of Champagne has remained almost stable during the last three years, while grape prices have increased around 3% in each of the last three harvests.

Nevertheless, greater cooperative between the growers and the houses was confirmed by Pascal Férat, who is head of Champagne’s Syndicat Général des Vignerons.

In an interview with db Férat said, “The houses and growers share a common vision and objective for the region of Champagne.”

He also said, “Project 2030 is about setting up long term objectives for 2030 and the next generation, and I am very happy to open this file, even if I won’t see the end of the project.”

Continuing he commented, “It’s about Champagne taking its future in hand, and about the presidents [of the unions for the growers and the houses] pushing the key leaders of Champagne to sit around the same table and decide the future.”

The project has a two-pronged approach according to Férat, with, on the one hand, a focus on the positioning of Champagne in global markets and on the other, an emphasis on how growers need to evolve and adapt to secure their position in the long term.

For the growers, Férat admitted that one core part of Project 2030 would consider the transfer of land from one generation to the next.

With the price of land in Champagne now averaging €1 million per hectare, the cost of passing on vineyards to the next generation is becoming prohibitively high due to inheritance tax.

“There is a huge cost in terms of the transmission of land from one generation to another,” he said, “So the growers can’t transfer the land to their children.”

“This is a big problem, and the project has this as a key element,” he concluded.

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