Industry wine suppliers have welcomed measures by the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne to regulate the supply of grapes and reduce stocks of Champagne throughout the region.
The move is prompted by the current financial crisis and the drop in Champagne sales worldwide, which fell by 45% in the first half of the year.
The total yield for 2009's Champagne harvest is 14,000 kg/hectare, 9,700kg/hc of which will be used to make Champagne for the spring, and 4,300kg/hc of which will be put into reserve at the wine stage, to combat a surplus supply.
Francoise Peretti from the Champagne Bureau commented: "Demand has slowed down so Champagne is taking these measures because we also have 1.2 billion bottles ageing at the moment in cellars. We want to maintain this level of stock, but ensure that there is no more than this because of the current climate.
"We always think medium to long term. This reserve is being built in response to the financial downturn, but it's an amazing buffer because in two to three years' time when we're out of the recession and the market recovers, this reserve means we will have enough Champagne to address the situation."
Willie Lebus, director of wine supplier to restaurants Bibendum Wine commented: "It's no secret that Champagne sales worldwide are down. The Champenois need to ensure that there is enough Champagne to meet demand. A surplus would result in a price war and a major deterioration of relations between the growers and the Houses. Unlike most areas of wine production The Houses do not own all the vineyards.
"By controlling grape production, all sides are happy. In the event of a harvest failure in 2010, grape growers are allowed to hold a proportion of still wine in reserve."
Graeme Oliver, Matthew Clark's wine development specialist manager added: "From a sales angle, this will mean that the current prices for Champagne should remain at consistently high level and there will be less need to heavily discount Champagne or dump stock to ensure the throughput.
"It is reassuring that the lowering of yields should also improve the level of quality and ultimately should allow consumers to enjoy a better quality of wine."
By Rosie Birkett
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