Bring on the bubbly: France plans to expand Champagne region

It’s easy to become a wine snob if you’ve ever lived in France. The thing that irks me the most is calling all various kinds of sparkling wine “champagne.” In France, only bottles that are produced in the Champagne region can be graced with the term that has become synonymous with luxury; anything else is just plain old vin pétillant, or sparkling wine.

But in a global society, even a stubborn Frenchman can only stick to his traditions for so long. Last year exports of French champagne bottles hit a record 150.9 million bottles and the growing global demand for champagne is forcing France to expand the region to include another 40 villages; just so the country can produce more bottles classified under the same name.

Wine experts from the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO) have been debating on expanding the boundaries of the region for quite some time now. On Thursday a meeting was set to decide which villages should be included in the region, but a final decision — which will need to be made at the national level — will not be reached until 2009.

If I owned a vineyard, I would certainly be crossing my fingers. “If your vines fall on the wrong side of the divide, they will be worth 5,000 euros ($7,800; £3,800) a hectare,” said Gilles Flutet of the INAO, as quoted by the BBC. “On the other side they will be worth 1 million euros.”

It may seem strange to have to expand the physical region instead of just placing a champagne label on other bottles of sparkling wine from around the country, but then again, c’est la France and wine is much more than a drink; it’s a way of life.