Blog: Olly WehringChannel 4 takes a pop at Champagne

Olly Wehring | 17 September 2008

Champagne producers took a battering last night on Channel 4's Dispatches programme.

For the non-Brits among us, Dispatches is designed to be a hard-hitting, investigative documentary series.

In our view, last night's episode on "what's in your wine" was certainly hard-hitting, but a bit loose with the truth.

Shots of presenter Jane Moore's stern face as she uncovered 'evil' in the wine world were theatrical at best. Inevitably, the wine world is seething - the show was watched by 1.4m viewers (read, consumers), according to the Digital Spy publication. 

Champagne's "dirty secrets" included accusations of plastic waste in vineyards, high sugar levels and pesticide residues in top brands.   

Daniel Lorson, head spokesperson for Champagne trade body CIVC, told just-drinks yesterday: "There is a saying we use in French, and it means 'everything which is excessive has no value. Of course, there is a little bit of truth in what they said. But this has been greatly exaggerated." 

And there is the point. There are certainly issues the wine world needs to face. Should wineries be clearer about what has gone into their bottles, for example? Is it fair that wine companies evade the labelling rules laid down for most other food and drink products, no matter the extra cost of complying? Can more be done to cut pesticide use?

Winemakers have been fortunate to avoid the scrutiny targeted at other food and drink sectors in recent years.

One senior wine official in Italy told me this year that use of illegal grape varieties may be more widespread than anyone had so far realised. "Don't go there," he said.

Exaggeration aside, consumers are starting to go there. The industry needs to be ready.


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