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Camus: 2016 was ‘a nightmare’ vintage in Champagne

Piper-Heidsieck’s chef de cave, Regis Camus, has admitted that the 2016 harvest was “a nightmare” in Champagne with “an explosion of mildew” he’d never witnessed before.

Regis Camus
Piper-Heidksieck’s chef de cave Regis Camus

Speaking to the drinks business during the London launch of a rosé expression of the house’s prestige cuvée Rare, Camus said: “The 2016 vintage was a nightmare. We had snow in April and very low temperatures in the vineyards.

“Nearly all of the vines in the Côte des Bar were killed by frost – production in Champagne is down by 15%. We had lots of rain in May, June and July, which led to an explosion of mildew like I’ve never seen before.

Camus considers Piper's Cuvée Brut as the most important Champagne in the range
Camus considers Piper’s Cuvée Brut as the most important Champagne in the range

“Thankfully the August heat stopped the march of the mildew. The grapes were tiny though and were drying out on the spot. Our harvest was down by 33%.

“Pinot Noir and Meunier ripened faster than Chardonnay, which is unusual. In fact, our Chardonnay ripened at the right time but our Pinot ripened early.

“It will be an interesting challenge trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and make our Cuvée Brut from the 2016 vintage. We will have to rely more heavily on reserve wines and will use at least 20% in the blend.”

Camus described the Cuvée Brut as “the most important wine in our range” as it accounts for 85% of production.

“It’s our pret à porter wine. Every year I tweak the blend to modernise it. Over the last decade it has become less vinous in character and more fresh, fruit forward and mineral,” he said.

“It’s important to listen to what consumers around the world want from Champagne and try to deliver it. At the moment people want freshness.

“People are also asking for lower dosage wines, which is why our Essential Cuvée, on sale next year, has a dosage of 6 g/l of sugar,” he added.

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