Champagne report 2014: Seizing the initiative

Taking action

ChampagneDue to this, not only is the image of the region affected by the low price, and inconsistent character of the product, but also, potentially, a lack of transparency: the consumer isn’t always told who actually made the wine, or bottled the Champagne. Consequently, Project 2030 is primarily a response to three major challenges: a desire to distance Champagne from the increasing number of high quality sparkling wines; a need to advance the understanding of Champagne’s key attributes, and an attempt to eliminate the damaging effect of sur latte trading. So how will the initiative tackle such issues? It should be noted that nothing definite has yet been agreed, but proposals abound.

As a result, firstly, regarding the issue of quality, Project 2030 hopes to address this through tougher regulations. And it appears that the focus will be on winemaking. Rosset at Deutz says that new rules should raise the length of time the wine ages on its lees, up from 15 months to 18, but he also suggests more heavily regulating the pressing process. He states: “We need to take decisions to bring better quality, for example, by changing the amount of juice we can extract from a tonne of grapes.” He continues: “If we were to go from 160kg o 170kg of grapes for 1hl (of must), then there would be better juice across the whole appellation, and it would have a significant impact on quality.”

For Charles Philipponnat, president of Champagne Philipponnat, the emphasis should be on tightening up viticultural rules. “Thirty years ago the CIVC (Le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne) guidelines for viticulture were the strictest in the world but they haven’t changed, so we are no longer ahead of others.” Similarly, Cecile Bonnefond, president of Champagnes Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck, would like to see a focus on improving the quality of the region’s raw material: the grapes. “Changes need to be made: the houses need to run the image part, and the wine growers need to move up the excellence of the grapes,” she says, adding, “We don’t want OK grapes, we only want top grapes, and with the price we pay for grapes today, it is fair that everyone be on top of excellence.”

A further aspect to the advance of quality in the region centres on protecting the long term viticultural health of Champagne’s vineyards. UMC president, and director of Champagne resources at Moët Hennessy, Jean-Marie Barillère says “a new acceleration of sustainable viticulture” is “one example” of Project 2030’s missions, because, he says: “We need to think of the quality of the grapes and respect for the terroir.” Already, the CIVC has pushed more ecologically sound approaches, assisting growers in the preservation of biodiversity, reduction of harmful inputs, and control of waste. Summing up this aspect to Project 2030, Barillère comments: “There is a lot of discussion about how to increase the quality of the grapes, and the quality of the juice, and the length of ageing.”

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