Part of the Champagne region's reserve stocks of wine should be released onto the market if worldwide demand for Champagne continues to soar in the new year, according to producer organisation the Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC).

Champagne shipments have risen by 7.5% over the past year and could top 340m bottles for 2007 as a whole, fuelling demand for grapes and still wine (vins clairs). That in turn has pushed up prices, prompting fears in some quarters that the market might be overheating.

Now the UMC has said that it will try to negotiate the release of some of Champagne's reserve wines with the region's growers early in 2008 to feed this demand.

"The houses of Champagne don't ask for an increase of the ceiling limit of the reserve (actually 8,000kg/ha)," said David Chatillon of the UMC. "But they ask for a free-up of part of the reserve in the first quarter of 2008 if the worldwide demand for Champagne continues to be very strong."

Patrick Le Brun, president of growers union the Syndicat Général des Vignerons, said the organisation would monitor the economic situation and "free up part of the reserve if necessary".

The news follows a 2007 harvest in which yields, while adequate for the most part, fell below the new maximum of 15,500kg/ha, pushing up grape prices by about 5%, with some houses paying 7-8% more.