Champagne harvest to start next week4th September, 2012 by Rupert Millar
Champagne will be looking to start its harvest over the course of next week with rigorous sorting required to ensure a good standard of quality.
Speaking to the drinks business, Laurent Fresnet, cellar master for Henriot, said that he was hoping to begin harvesting on 12 September, with many other houses apparently looking to begin by the 15 or 17 September.
He added: “It will be small in quantity but potentially very nice in quality – fingers crossed”.
Not to be drawn on the subject of vintage he merely proclaimed he was “more optimistic this year than others recently” despite the difficulties.
Champagne’s vineyards have been hit repeatedly this year by hail, frost and disease but a warm, dry August has helped salvage the situation somewhat.
Fresnet added that rigorous sorting will be required as the fruit set has been very uneven and millerandange has complicated matters further.
However, the fruit that has ripened is healthy and free of botrytis – a situation he compared to 2008 (volumes aside).
To ensure a good selection he said he had doubled his team responsible for sorting and quality control in the vineyard – another necessity as the workers are paid by the kilo.
The yields have not yet been set – they will be imminently – but Fresnet said that that the smaller houses are hoping for 10,000kg per hectare and the larger houses around 12,000kg and thus the likelihood was for 11,000kg to be the mark (a figure confirmed today, 5 September, by the CIVC).
Either way, the harvest will be far below that of 2010, which was small itself, and export director Catherine Léonard added that it would be a year that really “showed the expertise of each house”.
Away from the cautious optimism of Champagne, the news from Henriot’s estates in Burgundy, Bouchard Père et Fils and William Fèvre, was less positive, with Léonard saying that winemakers were only half joking when they compared their year to being struck by the, “seven plagues of Egypt – except the locusts”.
She added that it had been “more than tricky” for many producers and that the year amounted to a “combination of extremes” which was not good for the vines and the crop.
Even though William Fèvre practices biodynamics, she said that it was for years such as 2012 that it was not accredited as such to allow for greater flexibility and to salvage the crop in case of difficult weather.
“Those who have gone fully biodynamic are potentially in a disastrous situation,” she said.
Some vineyards have apparently been so badly hit that they “may take years to recover”.
The news compounds what are generally quite pessimistic forecasts for Europe’s vineyards this year, with news from Italy and Bordeaux also pointing to small or disappointing vintages – sometimes both.
Look out for further news on the upcoming harvest from the drinks business over the coming weeks.