Champagne: The Real Thing

With the New Year fast approaching, CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips journeyed to France to investigate firsthand whether there will be enough real champagne to go around.
There are still some large, unanswered millennium questions. Will air traffic control systems work? Will the bank's computer remember your balance?

But here, they have another, they think, more pressing millennium question: Will there be enough champagne?

Says French champagne spokeswoman Francoise Peretti: "For me, celebration means champagne."

The problem with champagne - the place and the drink - is that there's only so much of it. For a wine to be called champagne, the grapes must be grown and the wine made in the French province of Champagne. These aren't so much bottles of bubbly as they are soldiers marching off in ranks to defend a copyright.

And the French have convinced the world the only way to really celebrate is with the real thing.

Yet with their strict geographic restrictions, the French can only produce about 330 million bottles of the real thing every year - which, if you're a producer, is a pity.

"The demand this year is something between 20 and 25 percent above what we are going to put on the market," says Moet & Chandon chairman Jean-Marie LaBorde.

"As much as I would love everybody to enjoy champagne because it is the finest sparkling wine in the world, I think unfortunately it's going to be impossible," says Peretti.

The millions of bottles maturing in Champagne's caves right now will not be rushed to market but will stay there until they're ready.

So will there be enough of this stuff that night? That depends on how many people want to drink it. In fact, the answer to that question is like the answer to so many millennium questions; nobody really knows for sure.

All anybody knows is that champagne has more or less cornered the market on celebration and fun. And for the industry that makes it, that means one thing: money.

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