France to revise its Champagne-making area due to climate change

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
France to revise its Champagne-making area due to climate change
Chardonnay grapes for Champagne wine in a vineyard during a heatwave, in Ludes, central France, on September 8, 2023. (Photo by FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI / AFP)

France is set to revise its official Champagne area to reflect the changing climate, allowing dozens of extra communes to use the strictly protected label for their sparkling wines.


Champagne is one of France's oldest protected labels with sparkling white wine only able to call itself Champagne if it is produced in the correct area and manner and conforms to the AOC (Appellation origine controllé) status.

The Champagne area employs a team of lawyers, who aggressively pursue anyone who refers to a product that does not conform to the AOC label as 'Champagne'.

But by 2028, some 40 new municipalities could gain the right to produce wine within the Champagne appellation, while some others could lose the special label.

Currently, Champagne can only be produced in 319 communes spreading over a space of 34,000 hectares in the Marne, Haute-Marne, Aube and Aisne départements.

"This will be the biggest decision in the last sixty years, with major financial stakes," the head of the Champagne winegrower's union, Maxime Toubart, told Le Parisien. 

Why is the list changing?

In France, AOC products are reviewed periodically to ensure that they still maintain the strict traditional rules regarding production and location. 

"The climate has changed over the last century, and there have also been mistakes and oversights," Toubart told Le Parisien, with the goal of making the changes official by 2026, though they could take until 2028 to come into effect.


Toubart also explained that part of the goal is to be able to produce more Champagne to better meet growing demand. 

There have been discussions about revising the AOC Champagne area for several years.

In 2013, a committee of experts was appointed by France's Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualité (INAO), which falls under the country's ministry of agriculture and is tasked with designating areas based on their AOC/AOP status, to analyse the AOC area and determine which areas deserved to be included and excluded.

The Champagne winegrower's union has reportedly worked alongside INAO, with Toubert telling the Vitisphere wine magazine in 2022 that they were taking "into account the effects of climate change" as well. 

The INAO will unveil its final report by the end of 2024, and its board of directors will vote in spring 2025 about the changes to the label.

Which communes could change?

The final list of the new communes that could be added to the appellation has not yet been finalised, but there were already doubts about the town of Orbais-l'Abbaye in the Marne département being downgraded.

Alexandre Piat, the mayor of the small village which boasts 30 hectares of Champagne vines, told BFMTV that "the very word 'declassification' is significant."


Concerned for tourism and the economic future of his town, as well as its traditions, Piat explained that "there have been vines in Orbais for years, historically speaking, and not just for Champagne (...) We don't understand how a place with such good exposure, with vines that have been planted for a number of years, could be downgraded."

However, even if villages like Orbais-l'Abbaye are downgraded, they could still cultivate the vines that exist for the next 50 years and they would not be forced to tear them down immediately, according to reporting by BFMTV. 

They would also receive financial compensation in the case of downgrading.

What's the deal with Champagne's special label?

Champagne has been considered an AOC for decades, but the industry has been fighting to maintain their product's good name for even longer. 

In 1891, protection for the Champagne name and wine was first codified in the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks (the Treaty of Madrid) which made it so trademarks would be recognised by other nations who signed and ratified the treaty.

READ MORE: Why France's Champagne lawyers are feared across the world

In 1919, recognising the Champagne trademark was even written into the Treaty of Versailles - which also dealt with some weightier topics such as thrashing out the conditions to end World War I including war reparations. 

When France came up with the designation in 1935 to protect special products, which labels products based on their unique geographic and production heritage, Champagne was quickly recognised, just one year later.

This meant that an AOC Champagne must meet certain standards, from the geographic location, type of grape used, cultivation techniques employed and more, to gain the label.

Under French law, it is illegal to manufacture and sell a product under one of the AOC-controlled indications if it does not comply with the criteria of that AOC.

In order to make them recognisable, all AOC products carry a seal, with a number as well as the name of the certifying body. The colour of the seal indicates the product classification: green for field products and red for dairy products.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also