Champagne 2017: did harvesting start too late?

Bruno Paillard described 2017 as “a very contrasted year”

Picture credit: Bruno Paillard

Meanwhile, at the launch of his 2002 vintage in London last week, Bruno Paillard said that it was a year where Champagne’s classification system for vineyard quality was particularly relevant.

“Probably more than ever before the Échelle des Crus was really justified, with the grand crus of Chardonnay escaping any problems, and Pinot Noir, partially, particularly in the northern part of the Montagne de Reims,” he said.

However, he added, “Everything in the Vallée de la Marne was much more difficult, particularly the further west you go – if you superimpose a map of the rains in August on the vineyards, it is very clear the regions that did and didn’t do so well.”

He then said, “It’s a great pity because at the end of the July we were expecting something between the calibre of 2008 and 1996 – the only problem we had was a bit of frost on 27 April reducing the volume, but flowering in June had gone perfectly well and, until the end of July, we had dry weather that was fantastic for the grapes… maybe it was even a little too warm and dry, and we needed a bit of rain, but we had much more than we were hoping for.”

While acknowledging that Août fait le moût [August makes the must], he stressed that 2017 “was not a disaster but a very contrasted year: we have the best and the worst, depending on how much rain you had, your growing methods, and what date you started picking.”

Due to late-spring frost, summer-time hail storms, and the need for rigorous grape selection following a wet August, Paillard said that yields would be lower than last year, and may fall short by as much as 20% of the official marketable yield of 10,800 kilograms per hectare – which was set for the region on 21 July.

But, because of Champagne’s system of blocage – where a portion of each harvest is put aside for future use – this “should not be a problem”.

Of course, a reserve of wine from previous harvests can only benefit the region’s non-vintage cuvées, but as these represent as much as 90% of the appellation’s output, it is highly significant.

Concluding, Paillard drew attention to the great benefit of having stocks of wine stored in tank for regulating the quantity and quality of multi-vintage Champagne.

“The reserve is Champagne’s great asset,” he stated.

2 Responses to “Champagne 2017: did harvesting start too late?”

  1. Charles Crawfurd says:

    Good old French bureaucracy getting in the way as usuual!

  2. Steve Pritchard says:

    And you cannot mess with August vacations!

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