To a backdrop of growing global demand, the national committee of French AOC validating body, the INAO, has unanimously approved a project to enlarge the production zone of Champagne which until now has been restricted by legislation dating back to 1927.

The project, which was initiated by the Champagne growers association SGV (Syndicat Général des Vignerons de la Champagne), makes provision to increase the number of rural districts allowed to use the AOC champagne label from 319 to 357, the INAO said yesterday (13 March).

A long and complex administrative and legal process lies ahead, however, and it could be 2021 before the first bottles of Champagne produced from vineyards planted on land added to the production zone come to market.

The 'projet de delimitation' will initially be the subject of a public enquiry, the findings of which will be taken into account in the drawing up, by INAO-appointed experts, of a revised definitive map which organises the geographic area into two zones: the so-called working zone of 675 districts and the (grape) production zone of 357 districts.

The definitive map should be completed by spring 2009. Work will then turn to designating the individual parcels of land within the grape production zone which could take until 2015.