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Houses divided over quality of 2016 vintage in Champagne

Reports are mixed about the 2016 vintage in Champagne, with some winemakers reporting ‘disastrous’ conditions and others pleasantly surprised by the quality.

Anne Malassagne of AR Lenoble was happy with the quality of her grapes picked this year

Speaking to db during a lunch in London to celebrate the dual launch of its 1996 blanc de blancs and 1996 demi-sec, Anne Malassagne, co-owner of AR Lenoble in the Côtes de Blancs said:

“It’s too early to decide if 2016 will be a vintage year but the quality of the grapes we picked was unexpected. We were very worried in the middle of August but we enjoyed three weeks of sunny days and cool nights that helped to keep the acidity levels high enough.

“We had perfect conditions in September apart from a few days of rain, which didn’t cause any damage.

Anne and Antoine Malassagne in their vineyards in Chouilly

“We started picking our Pinot Noir and Meunier on 15 September then had to stop for a few days to wait for the Chardonnay to get ripe enough. Some of the Chardonnay was a bit to sweet so we blocked malolactic fermentation this year.

“The south of Champagne was hit hard by April frosts and some estates lost almost all of their crop to hail in villages like Urville.

“Our crop is down by about 20% on 2015 but we’re very happy with the quality of the grapes we picked.”

Last month, Regis Camus, chef de cave of Piper-Heidsieck admitted to db that the 2016 harvest was “a nightmare” in Champagne.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he added.

For a comprehensive 2016 vintage report in Champagne including commentary on the vintage from Bollinger, Ruinart and Deutz, click here.

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