Why Real 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.