A solution for Champagne’s Chardonnay shortage?

19th May, 2017 by Patrick Schmitt

As the demand for high-quality Chardonnay in Champagne begins to outstrip demand, one producer sees a solution for new sources in the south east of the appellation.

With the fashion for blanc de blancs Champagnes rising worldwide, maisons that specialise in fizz made from Chardonnay, such as Ruinart, have previously told db that any further sales growth is limited by the supply of high-quality white grapes in the region, particularly from the famous Chardonnay vineyards of the Côtes des Blancs.

Recording that “for great Chardonnay you need chalk, and certain slopes,” Frédéric Dufour, who is president & CEO of Ruinart, told db earlier this year that high-quality Chardonnay grapes have become the most “precious raw material” in Champagne – exacerbated by the variety’s susceptibility to frost because it blossoms early.

As a result, not only is the finite amount of good Chardonnay capping growth for some producers, but it is also ensuring that prices for the best grapes are rising quickly – and some would say too quickly to pass on to consumers.

Furthermore, due to Chardonnay’s specific requirements – above all free-draining chalky slopes – there isn’t the possibility to simply switch vineyards planted to red grapes (Pinot Noir and Meunier) over to Chardonnay, which is currently the least planted grape in Champagne, accounting for less than a third of the vineyard area.

Jean-Claude Fourmon: “Vitry is [home to] the most beautiful Chardonnay in Champagne after the Côte des Blancs”

Nevertheless, Jean-Claude Fourmon, who is head of Champagne Joseph Perrier – a maison headquartered in Chalons-et-Champagne – told db that there was a source of high-quality Chardonnay beyond the traditional heartlands of Champagne production (the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs), and that there was potential for expansion.

This Chardonnay supply, he stressed, was from the village of Vitry-le-François, a place known to Champagne specialists for its extensive chalk deposits, similar to those more famously found at the Côte des Blancs.

“Vitry is [home to] the most beautiful Chardonnay in Champagne after the Côte des Blancs,” he stated.

Observing the high level of chalk in the area and its affect on the wines, he added, “The Chardonnay from Vitry has amazing minerality; the earth there is white.”

Significantly, he observed that there was the potential to bring more great Chardonnay terroir into the Champagne appellation because there were parts of Vitry with chalk outcrops that currently weren’t included within the boundaries of the famous French sparkling wine region.

“If you take all the communes of Vitry, the vineyard area totals around 500 hectares – but with the extension, there are probably new villages that could go to Vitry because there is still a lot of côteaux that can be elected,” he stated, referring to the decision by Champagne to revise the boundaries of the appellation to include new areas for planting grapes – a process still undergoing discussion.

At the moment, however, he said that more producers were discovering the quality of the Chardonnay from the existing planted area in Vitry, causing grape prices to rocket.

“We are still the largest buyer of grapes in Vitry, but now everyone is there and it is where the prices of grapes are rising most quickly,” he said.

“Chardonnay grapes are now over €6 per kilo are prices and going up faster than for the grands crus,” he added.

Such an escalation, he said, was a concern for the whole region. “If grape prices keep going up we are dead because if the price of Champagne keeps going up then it opens the door to new sparkling.”

The vineyard area officially known as the Côteaux de Vitry has its own association of growers and is planted almost entirely with white grapes – as much as 96% of the vines are Chardonnay.

It is found to the south and east of the Côtes des Blancs, and the Côteaux de Vitry shares the former famous area’s chalk outcrops and its south/south-east facing slopes, ensuring the exposure to sunlight in both places is maximised.

For more analysis on the demand for and supply of Chardonnay in Champagne, see the June edition of the drinks business, out next month.

Read more

CHAMPAGNE SUFFERS CHARDONNAY SHORTAGE

CHARDONNAY IS ‘THE WHITE TRUFFLE’ OF CHAMPAGNE

CHAMPAGNE TASTING TO CHAMPION BLANC DE BLANCS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Job vacancies

Senior Customer Marketing Manager

Conviviality Group
London or Bristol, UK

Customer Marketing Manager- 12 month FTC

Conviviality Direct
London, UK

PR Account Executive

Clementine Communications Ltd
Fulham, UK

Marketing Manager

Berkmann Wine Cellars
London, N7, UK

Brand Manager

Berkmann Wine Cellars
London, N7, UK

Sales Account Manager

Jascots Wine Merchants
London, UK

Marylebone Sales Manager

Philglas & Swiggot
Marylebone, London, UK

Area Sales Manager

Bon Coeur Fine Wines
North England, UK

Procurement Assistant – Wine

Adnams PLC
Southwold, UK

Account Manager Central London

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

Brand Ambassador

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

National Business Development Manager

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

Marketing Assistant

Hatch Mansfield
Ascot, Berkshire, UK

Marketing Manager

Bancroft Wines
London, UK

The Global Sparkling Masters 2017

Deadline : 25th August 2017

The Global Malbec Masters 2017

Deadline : 25th August 2017

The Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters 2017

Deadline : 1st September 2017

Global Chardonnay Masters 2017

Deadline : 8th September 2017

Click to view more

The Global Rosé Masters 2017

With wines from the palest of pink to almost ruby red, bone dry to almost cloyingly sweet, reductively handled to barrel-aged, as well as gently spritzy to fully sparkling.

The Global Organic Masters 2017

The drinks business is thrilled to announce the launch of The Global Organic Masters

The Drinks Business Awards 2017

Now in its 15th year, the db awards have become the most authoritative, internationally respected badge of achievement in the alcoholic drinks industry.

The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters 2017

the drinks business Hong Kong announces its first year of The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters.

Click to view more