Why Champagne Is So Expensive | So Expensive


Champagne is synonymous
with wealth and luxury. It often costs double the
price of other sparkling wines, such as prosecco or cava. A decent-quality bottle of it can cost you anywhere from $50 to $300, and vintages can often sell for thousands. So, what makes Champagne so expensive? Champagne is often used as a generic term for sparkling wine. But, in fact, Champagne
is only true Champagne if it’s made here, in Champagne. About 150 kilometers east of Paris, this highly protected region of France is home to the world’s most
prestigious, and expensive, Champagne sellers and cellars, such as Moët & Chandon and Perrier-Jouët. All other sparkling wines
made outside of this region, even those from neighboring
parts of France, must be labeled differently. Which means, in this
relatively small area, a little over twice the
size of San Francisco, the world’s entire stock
of true Champagne is made. That’s over 300 million
bottles every year, with an annual revenue of over $5 billion. Champagne sales have grown
steadily since the 1950s, but its future growth depends on the protection of the
region’s unique climate. Northern France’s variable conditions are the first factor for elevated prices. With an average temperature
of 50 degrees Fahrenheit, this location is cooler than France’s other wine-growing regions, which gives the grapes the right acidity for sparkling-wine production. However, an often-freezing
continental weather front makes the winemaking
process more difficult than other dependable ecosystems. Narrator: During harvest, 120,000 workers descend on Champagne to pick grapes from 84,000 acres of vines. Narrator: Authentic Champagne is produced via the méthode champenoise, where the wine undergoes
a primary fermentation in oak or stainless-steel vats and a secondary fermentation
inside the bottle. This method is controlled and restricted within the European Union, so that wines from outside
the Champagne region cannot be described as Champagne. However, wines from all over the world are produced in exactly the same way and instead are labeled as sparkling wine, produced via the méthode traditionnelle. Some winemakers in
countries outside of the EU ignore European labeling laws altogether and continue to produce sparkling wine bearing the Champagne name. These imitations are constantly challenged by the Comité Champagne, which works with more
than 80 lawyers worldwide to protect the authentic Champagne brand. Ultimately, despite
similarities in production and possibly taste, only true Champagne comes with the history and
prestige of the region. Champagne production dates
back to the third century, when the Romans first planted vineyards in northeastern France. During the mid-17th century, with the development of
bottled fermentation, Champagne officially became a sacred drink when it was served at the king’s courts during the accession of Louis XIV. However, the carbon dioxide gas, which built up inside these early bottles, often caused them to
explode in the cellars. Therefore, great efforts
went into ridding the wine of its bubbles. But, by the 19th century, the
sparkling version of Champagne had grown in popularity, especially among the rich and royalty. As the large Champagne houses
optimized mass production of sparkling Champagne with the development of
thicker glass and corks, the modern Champagne
industry began to form. Amazingly, despite the region
becoming a key battlefield during both World War I and World War II, some Champagne production still continued. It’s estimated that by
the end of the Great War, about 40% of Champagne’s
vineyards had been destroyed. Because of the cutback in production, bottles made during either
war fetch a high price. In 2015, Sotheby’s auctioned
a Krug cellar visit and a tasting of their
wartime 1915 vintage for $116,000. Champagne’s affiliation with
luxury, wealth, and celebrity has kept prices high, from crowning kings [cork pops]
[applause and laughter] to launching great ships.
[horn blowing] Even Jay-Z has gotten in on the action. In 2014, he became part-owner
of Armand de Brignac, also known as “Ace of Spades,” a Champagne brand run
by the Cattier family. In September 2019, they
released their rarest, priciest cuvée yet,
comprised of three vintages, from 2009, 2010, and 2012. The wine was left to age for
six years until the bottles, only 3,535 of them, were made available for a cool $1,000 per bottle. But what about the future? Champagne became the world’s
first wine-growing region to examine its carbon footprint
and implement a carbon plan, as a result of worrying statistics. Global warming has seen
temperatures in the region rise by 1.2 degrees Celsius
over the last 30 years, and the grape harvest dates have moved forward by a fortnight. As Champagne’s perfect climatic
conditions are changing and the Paris accord climate targets fail to keep up with global warming, the future of winemaking
in this historic region could be in jeopardy.

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