Bubbles yes, but green ones please

Oct 27, 2020 • 3 mins

Agro-forestry, permaculture, soil preservation, environmental certification, sustainable and organic viticulture, effluent treatment... Champagne is making progress along the road to becoming more eco-friendly.

And yes, consumers increasingly want to “drink well” and also eco-responsibly if at all possible. In terms of figures, it must be said that, at first sight, it looks quite good. The following is a short overview of the initiatives, courtesy of the Champagne Wine Board: 

In summary:

Overall, no less than 27% of the surface area in Champagne has an environmental certification.

Is this therefore cause for celebration? Certainly, because every effort is to be applauded, but it should also be borne in mind that, for example, for HVE and Terra Vitis, the use of synthetic chemical products is still permitted, and in organic growing, nothing obliges the producer to reduce his carbon footprint.

But the movement is underway and consumers, concerned about their health and a little rattled by the recurring health scandals, will demand stronger guarantees about what they consume and the preservation of the environment.

Going further still will take time due to the nature of the production structure, which is set up to add value to the "house" style that we find from one year to the next. To ensure the continuity of their house styles, cooperative wineries (9% of the wines sold), and the big champagne houses (72%), will blend together different vintages and different grape varieties from different “suppliers". It is difficult to demand and set up compulsory sustainable growing with these grape suppliers.

On the other hand, the emergence of single-plot champagnes is helping to change mentalities and creating a focus on more eco-friendly production. The consumer, knowing the genesis of the specific place of production, is reassured. As an example, Canard Duchêne has understood this by naming its organic champagne "Parcelle 181". As for Roederer, it is in the process of converting its domaine to biodynamics, while Drappier fully offsets its carbon footprint.

Other alternatives are now beginning to emerge and some producers are starting to move into agroforestry. This is a completely different vision of viticulture and a very promising approach. It's not just a question of being organic, HVE or " Terras Vitis ", but of establishing a viticulture that requires the least intervention by recreating an eco-system that is as self-regulating as possible. Planting trees, for example, in addition to the heat regulation effect, encourages the presence of bats and birds that feed on insects that can be harmful to the vine. Jérome Courgey (former vineyard manager at Champagne Lanson) has just created the "Arbre et Paysage" association to take organic and biodynamic methods to the next level. "Agroforestry enables us to have a sustainable and resilient viticulture" he tells us.

Within this movement, we can also mention Lanson and its Green Label champagne. A judicious blend of organic, biodynamic and agro-ecology on a mono-cru from a selected vineyard plot. Other experiments are being carried out by the likes of Champagne Vincent Cuillier in Pouillon or A.Pouillon in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. Others, such as Bougeois-Diaz, Emilien Feneuil or Benoit Dehu are also beginning to think about how to produce wines that are even closer to nature in order to create an even “greener” Champagne.