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Brun: Bitterness is the new trend in Champagne

With rising temperatures leading to lower acidity levels in Champagne, Cyril Brun of Charles Heidsieck, believes bitterness will be used to achieve balance.

Cyril Brun believes bitterness may hold the key to balance in Champagne

Speaking at the UK launch of Charles Hedisieck’s prestige cuvée, Blanc des Millenaires 2006, this week, Brun said: “I’m very interested in bitterness in Champagne and I think it could be the answer with regards to global warming.

“Good bitterness management can complement lower acidity levels – if you play with bitterness it can give a second life to the Champagne and can keep the freshness longer in medium acidity wines.

“I am reintroducing an element of bitterness to the Champagnes I make as an answer to decreasing acidity levels.

“I think in the future we will be talking about bitterness more and more in Champagne and sugar will become a secondary indicator, because sugar is always there.

“In Champagne we used to lose sleep over not having enough sugar in our wines and now it’s the opposite, we’re losing sleep over having too much sugar.”

Brun believes bitterness will play an increasingly important role in the second pressing stage of Champagne production.

“I started to realise the role of bitterness when tasting berries and eating the seeds. When you do this you can really feel what the role of bitterness can be.

“We have been rediscovering the role of phenolics in Champagne since the heatwave in 2003, and we’re really paying attention to it now. Before no one was paying attention to phenolics as they were almost un-measurable,” Brun said.

As for the 2020 harvest, Brun said it was record-breaking in terms of how early it was. “In 2006 we started picking on 15 September, and this year we had already finished the alcoholic fermentation by then as we started the harvest on 13 August.

“Global warming has had a big impact on picking dates. The big challenge of 2020 was that the ripening of the grapes was not homogenous.

“I’m optimistic about the wines, especially Pinot and Meunier, which are displaying rich and opulent fruit. I tasted the wines from 27 tanks this morning and it’s looking very promising, but it’s too early to know if 2020 will be a vintage year or not,” Brun said.

In terms of yields, Brun said “nature and business were aligned” in 2020, with the house bringing in 9,000 kilos of grapes per hectare due to the smaller than average berry size brought about by an excess of heat and lack of water.

“This year was a true paradox – we’d picked all the Meunier before we started on the Chardonnay, usually it’s the other way around,” Brun said.

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