It’s harvest time! Picking season starts in Champagne

Harvest season is upon us – the time when growers in Champagne will start to assess the results of another year’s carefully cultivated crop. This year has been interesting in terms of weather conditions.

In July, severe hailstorms damaged 300 hectares of Champagne vineyards, although the storms proved more damaging in Bordeaux where, according to the Guardian, around 7000 hectares were destroyed.

Champagne Pol Roger president Laurent d’Harcourt told Champagne World the region did not suffer badly as a result of the July storms, but harvest has still been much later than usual.

“We had a very late spring (and) a late flowering,” he said.

“We might be going back to the old days, and maybe having a reverse of global warming – a global colding!”

Colder temperatures in Champagne can have an effect on the quantity of grapes, which can have a knock-on effect as to whether a house will decide to declare a vintage.

A vintage is a wine produced from a single harvest and the houses are under no obligation to make one.

It is up to the cellar master as to whether he or she believes the quality of the grapes to be high enough, or the overall volume of grapes too low to be unable to meet the requirements needed to produce non-vintage (NV) and other wines.

champagne

Most champagne exported to the UK is non-vintage. This is a blend of wine from different years.

In 2012, 28.15 million bottles of non-vintage champagne was exported to the UK, compared to just over 640,000 bottles of brut vintage, according to figures from the Comité Champagne.

That means there is almost 40 times as much NV on the market, compared to vintage.

But that’s not to suggest some houses won’t declare a 2013 vintage. But this is far too early to tell at this stage.

A vintage champagne has to remain in cold, dark cellars deep underground for a minimum of six years before it can be declared a vintage.

Champagne Ayala marketing manager Philippe-Alexandre Bernatchez said deciding whether to make a vintage is a long and careful process, and can only be decided when the grapes are given time.

“(There is) no way of telling if it will be vintage yet, (we) have to wait for the vinification to say that,” Mr Bernatchez said.

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