At last week’s Wine Paris, David Chatillon and Maxime Toubart, co-presidents of Comité Champagne, laid out several initiatives to futureproof the category and address issues in the industry.

Initiatives include commitments around regulation and social responsibility, the introduction of a new framework for contractual relationships between winegrowers and houses, an increase in the reserve level, the construction of a greenhouse, as well as a new research and development centre in Epernay.  

RESPONSIBILITY

The pair said that in order to address the challenges linked to the employment of grape-pickers, Comité Champagne has asked public authorities to “severely condemn the unacceptable behaviours that occurred during last year’s harvest”, with plans centred around accommodation, working conditions, health and safety of harvesters and facilitating recruitment. Last year, it was reported that several people died in hot weather, while others were found to be living in poor conditions.

Initial progress will be shared before the 2024 harvest.

Toubart, who is also president of the Syndicat Général des Vignerons said: “We are committed to providing a better framework during this crucial period, and to dealing with the fundamental issues. The aim is to ensure the smooth running of the harvest, which mobilises 100,000 grape-pickers every year.”

INNOVATION

As part of the national plan to combat vine decline, the Comité Champagne highlighted the construction of an “insect-proof” greenhouse. The greenhouse, built as part of the Qanopée project including Champagne, Beaujolais, and Burgundy, is designed to secure the production of vine plants in north-eastern France. Inauguration is scheduled for summer 2024.

Elsewhere, the Comité flagged an expanded research, development and innovation centre at the future Maison de la Champagne in Epernay, which is about to start construction.

The pair also outlined plans to raise the reserve level. Described as “a crucial tool for regulating Champagne production”, the reserve enables a portion of the wines produced during good harvests to be kept for future use in any deficit years. The reserve level has been raised from 8,000 kg/ha to 10,000 kg/ha.

APPELLATION

In line with ambitions to expand its network of embassies around the world, a new Champagne Office will open in Stockholm next April, representing the industry in the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark).

The Comité Champagne is also launching Champagne Education, a certified programme designed to “train wine professionals and reinforce their role as ambassadors”.

“The continued investments and commitments we are making for the industry’s resilience are an absolute priority to give us the means to ensure long-term market balance, as well as ensure that Champagne remains an exceptional wine,” said Chatillon, who is also president of the Union des Maisons de Champagne.

CONSUMPTION HABITS

According to the pair, consumers are now looking for greater diversity in blends and dosage.

“Demand for rosé Champagne abroad has increased five-fold in 20 years. By the end of 2022, it represented over 10% of export sales, with 20 million bottles,” they said. “Low dosage wines (extra brut and zero dosage) are also on the rise, with volumes increasing almost 70-fold in the space of 20 years (6.4 million bottles exported in 2022).”

Exports now account for almost 60% of total sales (171.7 million bottles), compared to 45% ten years ago, the Comité said.