Back in April of this year we saw one major champagne producer advocate lower production rates
to compact the drop in sales. Now with harvest fast approaching, the battle is heating up over a reduction in yield. The London Times says
that they may be ordered to leave up to half of the grapes on the vine in order to prevent flooding the market with champagne there is no market for. Last year the harvest level was 14,000 kg for every hectare farmed, this year Champagne houses are advocating 7,500 kg a hectare. Growers realize they have to harvest less but are pushing for 10,000 kg a hectare. The champagne houses are finding that they already have over a billion bottles in stock in their wine caves, far more than they usually keep on hand. Champagne grapes harvested will turn into wine which is ready for sale in 2011. The problem is that no body seems to know just how fast the economy will rebound and if, when it does, it will take champagne consumption with it. Champagne drinking is associated with a certain type of extravagance and it may be that even if the economy recovers quickly people may still not be ready to raise their glasses with the French bubbly.
Grape growers are coming off years when they received high prices for their grapes and champagne production was kept high to keep up with increasing demand. They are angry and according to an article in the Economist
some say that the big champagne houses knew a crisis was coming, a charge the champagne houses deny. Merchants and vineyards are meeting Wednesday to set the maximum yield. If they can't reach a figure together then the regional prefect, who represents the French Government, makes the decision.