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The value of Champagne

Westmount Gaurantee hosted a Champagne tasting event for its clients this evening. Obviously it took place over Zoom. It was a great event and I learned a few things about Champagne. As most of you will know, sparkling wine cannot be called Champagne unless it’s from Champagne, France — a region that, as of 2008, included about 76,000 acres of vineyards and 319 villages. But as I started thinking about this acreage, the developer in me couldn’t help but wonder: “How was the boundary for the Champagne region established? Is it based on unique soil conditions that can’t be found anywhere else in France and the world, or is this a way to artificially control the supply of Champagne and fix prices?”

As you might imagine, the answer is complicated. (See the Champagne Riots of 1910-1911.) The viticultural boundaries of Champagne were legally defined in 1927. And the entire area is compromised of five wine-producing districts. But there have been revisions to this boundary. In 2008, the production zone was increased from 319 communes to 357. (I’m sure this was highly controversial.) And since the value of land is dependent on what you can do with it, this would have had a dramatic and overnight impact on land values. Yesterday you couldn’t apply a Champagne label, but today you can. According to this article from 2008, we are talking €5,000 a hectare to €1 million per hectare because of a simple boundary change. That is the value of “Champagne.”

Photo by Lomig on Unsplash

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