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French producers come to an agreement to save champagne

Winegrowers and champagne houses have come to an unprecedented agreement to limit the quantity of grapes that will be harvested this year, in the hope of containing further damage to the crisis-battered industry.

As turnover fell by a third, producers in France’s eastern Champagne region, headquarters of the global industry, have evaluated their loss to €1.7 billion ($2 billion) in sales for 2020.

While the winegrowers — supplying 80% of the trade’s grape supply — wanted the 2020 yield to be set at 8,500kh/ha, the houses, for their part, were demanding for a maximum of 7,000 kg/ha, taking into considering the fall in sales and the disproportionate size of stocks (more than one billion bottles).

After an unsuccessful meeting last month, the Comité Champagne, which gathers the vineyards and the wine trade, set the marketable yield to 8,000 kg/ha, the equivalent of 230 million bottles.

In 2019, it was 10,2000 kg/ha.

“8,000 kg is a significant drop in yield. But it is the fairest and most appropriate decision that allows winegrowers to cover their output,” told Maxime Toubard, president of the General Winegrowers’ Union to AFP.

“This system allows both grape sellers to maintain an acceptable income and marketers to meet the demand of their customers and preserve their cash flow,” the president of the Union of Champagne Houses Jean-Marie Barillère explained.

Both men would rather see the glass as half full: “The production capacity of the vines is on average around 12,000 kg per hectare. We’re really going to be able to choose the grapes”, Toubard said while Barillère is looking forward to “solar vintages”.

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