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Playing the yield

Published:  23 July, 2008

If you think that in 2004 Champagne produced a maximum of 12,000kg/ha, or even 14,000kg/ha if the blocage is included (as it will be one day when, hey presto, it becomes AOC Champagne), then think again, because it was 23,000kg/ha (146.6hl/ha) according to press-house records.

The authorities must decide whether Champagne growers should be allowed to continue overcropping every year. The worst offenders are, without doubt, the part-time growers who exclusively sell grapes, but overcropping is widespread, and everybody in the Champagne industry and the official bodies whose duty it is to supervise the Champagne industry are to blame. This includes INAO, which enjoyed such positive publicity for its initiative in forming work committees' to visit the vineyards to detect any aberrations and, essentially, to look for signs of overproduction. They were supposed to warn guilty growers that if they did not act immediately to reduce the yield, they would face declassification of their entire crop. Is INAO saying that an average yield of 23,000kg/ha (146hl/ha) is okay for Champagne, when vin de table producers get their crops carted away if they exceed 90hl? Did its committees really not see the numerous instances of 30,000kg/hl (191hl/ha)? What precisely does it take for INAO to declassify a Champagne grower's crop? Champagne is the guilty party, but INAO is its accomplice.