Gruelling but kind harvest in Champagne

Reports from Mumm and Perrier-Jouët have described a difficult year in Champagne but one that has left both houses hopeful of good quality.

Mumm’s cellar master, Didier Mariotti, said in his report: “It has been a gruelling harvest for Champagne this year, but nature has finally been kind to us, bringing the ideal weather we needed from the middle of August to enable the grapes to fully ripen. We are now feeling cautiously optimistic!”

Hervé Deschamps, cellar master of Perrier-Jouët, was more cautious saying he would reserve full judgement until he had begun tasting in December but he did suggest that this year may be similar to 2004.

Nonetheless he did add: “Despite the difficult weather earlier in the year, I am really excited by the quality of the grapes that arrived at our press centres during harvest: extremely healthy, with no botrytis and a very good ripeness for all three varieties.”

Both talked of the various difficulties that beset the region throughout the year including rot, coulure and millerandange that was brought on by damp weather in late spring and early summer and exacerbated by an erratic flowering.

However, good weather in August salvaged the situation and Deschamps even said that some plots in Cramant and Avize were ripe enough to give a potential alcohol level of 11%, some way above the usual and desired levels for base wines in Champagne.

Mariotti summed up: “The overall quality of the grapes arriving at our press houses was very high, in fact much higher than we dared to hope two or three months ago!

“They displayed a good level of maturity with an average of 10.4% potential alcohol. Acidity was also high – at around 7.6g/l on average. The diseases we witnessed earlier in the season such as mildew were largely overcome and the grapes were, in fact, mostly very healthy.”

The reports tie in with others from Champagne so far, with Henriot reporting just prior to the harvest that hopes were high for a good crop, and several cellar masters telling the drinks business that yields may be down but quality would be up.

This in its turn echoes the initial reports from other parts of France, notably Burgundy and Bordeaux, both of which are expected to produce good quality wines, marred only by – especially in Burgundy – very low volumes.

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