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That Man from Champagne

He was born and brought up in Epernay, Champagne and was probably baptized with champagne. Monsieur Jean-Louis Latour is passionate about champagne and Champagne. As the Minister Counsellor and Head of the French Economic Missions for South Asia he is busy promoting trade between France and India. But his eyes really light up the moment he talks about Champagne. It is as if he gets into a trance. I interviewed him to get some more insights into the region producing the King of Bubblies and wines in general. Here are his impressions:                                                                                         Subhash Arora

You were born and brought up in Epernay. Did you grow up on milk or champagne?

Actually, we are almost baptized with Champagne. Within a few days of birth the child's lips get a touch of champagne. Then champagne

and milk are both a part of growing up.

Is champagne an integral part of life for the inhabitants?

In my early days almost everyone in Champagne used to be connected with it in some form or another. My grandfather used to make his own champagne. Nothing much but about 1000 bottles

per year of decent quality was produced for the family. My uncle used to make champagne under the brand name, ‘Des Moulins'. Of course, now it is changing. Epernay is a small town of 23000 inhabitants but still champagne is a major part of our lives.
Why is Champagne so expensive?

Champagne is wine, my home, region, country and religion. People may call their wine whatever they like but we will not allow our geographical region to be exploited for commercial gains.

Price of land there is very high, to start with. Even 30 years ago it used to sell for 1-2 million Francs per hectare. As you know the Decree of 1927 had delimited the area marked for the production. Although the area under cultivation was almost doubled after World War II, still the grape prices were very high.

Then how do they hold the price line?

This is because the methods of production have improved and costs have come down. Storage is better too.

What is the reason that last year sale of champagne increased almost by 30% while Bordeaux and other regions had a drop?

Firstly the way champagne is marketed is totally different than wines in the other regions. Champagne is sold by ‘great houses'. Since 1945 there has been an explicit arrangement between the growers and the producers under the umbrella of CIVC- International Committee for Champagne and Wine. Under this agreement growers produce grapes and sell them to the producers under a formula. You can get many details on

Another reason is that in Champagne we have good years and bad years due to the vagaries of weather. It is difficult to fix places of origin or vintages. Take the

Example of Moet et Chandon. No matter what the year is and how the vintage for that year is, they produce the same quality and a wine that tastes same every year through labels.


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