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Champagne trends of 2013: 5. Perfect fruit

Although beyond the control of the Champenois, one positive development in the region over the last decade has been a kinder climate.

The weather in harvests since 2000 – aside from 2001 and 2011 – has been favourable for the creation fine and age-worthy Champagne. And for some, the best of these harvests since the start of the millennium was last year’s vintage, 2012.

Despite late frosts, poor flowering, as well as hail and disease, an eight-week dry and warm period from the start of August until picking was complete produced a small, but great quality harvest.

“It was a year of contrasts,” admits Pascal Férat, citing spring frosts and a wet June and July – as well as hail, particularly in the Aube – but then one whole harvest-saving month of sun during the final stage of the growing season.

While such challenging conditions in the first half of the year meant yields were down 30% on average, the grapes that were picked, he added, “have a balance between sugar and acid that is exceptional and rare, and only found in the greatest vintages”.

Charles Philipponnat, of the eponymous house, supports such a view, and points out the high level of ripeness in particular. “Because August was sunny and dry but not too hot, the wines are beautiful, clean and pure, balanced and ripe – and in our case, riper than 1996, and the ripest since 1959.”

Similarly, Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, chef de cave at Louis Roederer, says, “It is a great vintage: probably better than 1996 and close to 1990 on average, but in some special locations it could well better than that – closer to a 1947?”

Elsewhere, Patrice Noyelle at Pol Roger remarks, “The wines are better than 2008, better than 2002 and different to 1996 – our cellar master Dominique Petit compares 2012 to 1952.”

Continuing he enthuses, “The grapes were so healthy at harvest and tasted incredibly fruity – I think we will make a very rare vintage… It reminds us of 1947 or 52.”

Finally, Philippe Manfredini, international sales director at Gosset, remarks, “For the second time in over 20 years, our winemaker Jean-Pierre Mareigner said during the harvest, ‘this will definitely be a vintage’, and the first time he said that was 1996. All our hopes have been reached.”

Looking back, Manfredini added, “Since 2000 we can be very pleased, we’ve had great vintages with 2002, 2004, 2005, then 2006 and 2007 which were OK, followed by 2008, 2009 and 2010, which were all good.”

Returning to the topic of Champagne’s most recent harvest, however, Férat sums up, “God was tough to us but in the critical month he gave us the best weather for producing perfect fruit.”

Other Champagne trends reported by the drinks business include:

6. Fine wine following

7. Going green

8. Disgorgement debate

9. Reinstating rituals

10. Sweet surge

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