Nanny State

A Glass By Any Other Name…


Rising demand in India and China has sparked fears that the world could experience a drastic champagne shortage in the near future. Some say hoarding vineyard owners are to blame (the damn kulaks!)—they currently keep back about 100 million bottles for their retirement funds. But evidence points to a more likely culprit: the French government. In order to plant more champagne grapes, vineyards have to obtain authorization, which can take 10 years.

Global sales have risen from 287 million bottles in 2002 to 321 million in 2006. They are likely to reach 330 million this year, with exports to Russia growing by 39 percent, to China by 50 percent and to India by 125 percent. But only 32,600 hectares of vineyards are authorised to produce the black grapes for champagne.

Experts say that the maximum number of bottles to be wrung out of the land is 350 million – and many even doubt whether this can be attained. They say that the region's grapes are already being pushed to the limit as owners await official approval to plant more vines in 2017.

Of course, one solution is to just buy the same product with a different name. Since 1990, an E.U. law has forbidden any wine producer not from the Champagne region in France from using the name for their goods (and it tries hard to insist its trading partners abide by the rule). After all, if consumers can't be trusted to tell French champagne from trashy foreign stuff, they obviously need the government to help them. Perhaps what we're really facing is a semantics shortage.