Champagne sales have finally bounced back from the lows of 2008, with demand being driven primarily by emerging markets like South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. As Ivor Bennett reports, it's prompting the industry to experiment within its famously strict parameters.
It's a product built on tradition. The grapes, method and location all carefully prescribed - so too even the height from which grapes are poured into the press. But the rules are now being pushed, says Comité Champagne CEO Vincent Perrin. SOUNDBITE (English) VINCENT PERRIN, CEO, COMITÉ CHAMPAGNE, SAYING: "There is more and more research on the product itself, to adapt this product to the expectations, tanglible and intangible expecttions, of a new class of consumers all over the world." The majority of the bottles beneath Reims are still drunk in France. But as demand here dwindles - for a fourth year in a row - elsewhere it's proving difficult to quench. Consumption in both the US and Japan up by more than 7 percent in 2014. SOUNDBITE (English) VINCENT PERRIN, CEO, COMITÉ CHAMPAGNE, SAYING: "The United States is a market where you have a wide variety of different vines. The Japanese market is also very selective. They like small is beautiful in Japan." Jean-Pierre Vazart is one of those smaller growers. 10 years ago, he only sold to the domestic market. But a simple rebrand quickly bore fruit, allowing him to tap into the lucrative African and Asian markets. Consumption in the UAE grew nearly 15 percent last year; in South Africa - by more than a fifth. SOUNDBITE (English) JEAN-PIERRE VAZART, INDEPENDENT CHAMPAGNE GROWER, SAYING: "Of course the champagne is very important in the bottle. But if they have the choice in a shop of 20 different bottles, sometimes the label is the only thing they choose." For others, it's still the grape. But the traditional turf of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is now being uprooted in favour of rarer varieties As growers aim to satisfy the modern drinker.