Champagne’s location between French and German kingdoms has always left it open to the ravages of war and invading armies but the wine region has also seen internal political struggle and civil unrest too. The delimination (setting out of the official geographical area) of the Champagne Viticole resulted in the Revolt of the Vignerons in 1911. What’s more the Champagne Wars over the right to use the name ‘Champagne’ which are still rumbling on today. Now it seems the wine region has become a hotbed of speculation and tensions are rising.
Since 2003, Champagne has initiated a process with the INAO to expand its production area. In anticipation, some people have begun to invest in land that could potentially become classifiable. When you consider that a hectare of classified vineyard in Champagne can go for more than a million euros you can see what fuels the speculators. However steps are afoot to try to defuse the temptation to speculate.
Pleinchamp.com reports that speculators have been making advances to land owners in Laines-aux-bois (Aube). This is a small village which is part of the 45 chosen to have their lands considered by the INAO for reclassification and inclusion in the production area. This possibility has not escaped speculators and some farmers and land owners in Laines-aux-bois and neighboring villages have already received advances. It seems the speculators strategy paid off because a spate of transactions followed and the rumour is that the purchases were made at approximately 70 000 euros per hectare when the price of farmland is worth 10 000 euros a hectare.
Alerted by these transactions and the fear that a third of the agricultural land market could be reclassified, the SGV (Syndicat Général des Vignerons de la Champagne) has sought a solution to stop speculation. A framework agreement was signed between the SGV, the FDSEAs of Aube, Marne, the Union of Agricultural Unions of the Aisne, SAFER of Champagne-Ardenne, Picardie and Ile-de-France. The framework agreement aims to formalise the mutual agreement of growers and farmers to block the market. Emmanuel Mannoury the SGV said that:
“This is a strong political signal to tell everyone to wait until the area is stopped permanently to conclude your sales.”
It empowers SAFER (Société d’Aménagement Foncier et d’Etablissement Rural) to intervene when a “sale price of agricultural land appears disconnected from the reality of the market.”
There will still be difficulties – certain transactions have been achieved without official notifications, loopholes exist and even if sales are blocked leases can still be signed.
The INAO will issue its first findings concerning the proposed land for the expansion of Champagne in 2015, start the authorisation process in 2016 and first plantings are planned for 2018 – 2019.