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Published:  23 July, 2008

The governing board of the Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC) has voted unanimously to end all sur lattes transactions among ngociants from 1 January 2004. Assuming that the agreement can be enforced legally - and the UMC has applied for the necessary support from both the CIVC and the DGCCRF (Direction Gnrale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Rpression des Fraudes) - the move will be widely welcomed as a step towards the complete eradication of a practice which many, both inside and outside the region, have long regarded as nothing less than legalised fraud. It is still legal for companies to sell under their own well-known labels wines which they have neither made nor matured. There are no official figures for sur lattes sales, which take place among co-ops, growers and ngociants, but authoritative estimates put them at tens of millions of bottles a year, the same stock sometimes changing hands several times. With a few honourable exceptions, most of the major ngociants still trade sur lattes. The decision to end the practice among ngociants has been largely motivated by the wish to prevent the speculative sur lattes trade sustained by some of the smaller houses. The UMC, with the agreement of the Syndicat Gnral des Vignerons de Champagne, has also proposed to the DGCCRF that from 1 January 2004, any sur lattes wines sold by growers or co-ops to ngoce will have to be identified as distribu par [the name of the ngociant]' rather than elabor par'. This would apply to wines from the 2003 vintage onwards, but not to already bottled wine from earlier years.