REIMS, France, March 2, 2008 (AFP) – As champagne sales pop all-time record highs and demand outstrips supply, France’s wine-making czars are to issue an historic ruling to extend the champagne-growing area, a move that will pour new wealth into 40 small rural villages.
Like other French wines, Champagne-labelled bottles are produced only from grapes nurtured in a specially-designated region — in this case 33,500 hectares of land mapped out almost a century back.
But with production of the bubbly at a maximum 400 million bottles a year, grape prices are exploding and the value of a hectare of vineyard has hit almost a million euros.
As sales rise constantly, climbing 5.3 percent in 2007 to 338 million bottles, the potential new winners of the prestigious label are waiting breathlessly for a re-drawn champagne map to be issued March 13 by the body that rules over wine, the INAO or Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualite.
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“If your vines fall on the wrong side of the divide, they will be worth 5,000 euros a hectare,” said Gilles Flutet who is in charge of demarcation at INAO. “On the other side they will be worth a million euros.
The current champagne region — which like other wine regions is known as an AOC or “appellation d’origine cont