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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Neil Beckett

An important new interprofessional agreement for Champagne has been agreed in broad terms by the two main trade organisations in the region - the Syndicat Gnral des Vignerons (representing the growers) and the Union des Maisons de Champagne (the ngociants). The badly needed and long-sought agreement (see Harpers 2004 Champagne Supplement, page 5) will be finalised over the next few weeks, and will need the official sanction of the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO). But its main aims are already clear: to afford greater security to growers; to reduce speculation in grapes and vins clairs; and to improve the quality and regularity of supply by introducing greater flexibility in the quality reserve system. While there is no agreed price (illegal under current EU regulations), the measures should help to ease pressure on grape prices, which have been propelled to e5 per kilo. Among key measures are the compulsory drafting of a pre-sale contract, for a fixed five-year term, to be lodged with the CIVC; the prevention of sales of grapes or vins clairs by ngociants until the growers have been paid in full; and a restriction on the purchases of grapes or vins clairs by houses to 110% of their sales (130% for those with the strongest growth). In addition to the general quality reserve regulations already in place, a volume complmentaire individuel (VCI) will also be introduced. Under this new arrangement, growers will have greater control over the release of wine stored as part of their quality reserve. Until now, authorisation for the release of such stock has come for all growers at once.