Philippe Starck, Frederick Rouzaud and Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon at the launch in Paris
Last night in Paris Louis Roederer unveiled its new cuvée, a 2006 vintage champagne without any dosage with the label designed by Philippe Starck. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to taste it yet but will on the 29th when Frédéric Rouzaud Roederer MD and Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Executive Vice President and Cellar Master, are coming to London to launch it here. Watch this space.
The Champagne harvest began in warm sunny conditions with temperatures on the first day (8 September) of picking around 28degC, according to Laurent Gillet, Président du Directoire at Groupe Vinicole Champagne Devaux a major player in the Côte des Bar region.
Speaking at the Liberty Wines tasting in London on 9 September, Gillet said: “While the weather has been up and down over the summer, the past two weeks immediately before the harvest have been very favourable and we have both quantity and outstanding quality. There has been a long period of maturing since flowering was completed in early June which is best for concentrating all the elements we need to provide good aromas and flavour in the grapes. It’s my 30th vintage in Champagne and one of the best I’ve witnessed.”
Gillet had seen the first part of the harvest, Pinot Noir from the villages of Buxeuil and Neuville arrive in the winery at Bar-sur-Seine the previous day. “The grapes were very large weighing close to 150 grams with potential alcohol up over 10° degrees and acidity very high at 10-11gm/l, a bit like in 1996. So in some areas we are waiting to get better ripeness and this level of acidity will fall very quickly in the current extremely warm conditions which are expected to continue over the next few days.”
Gillet says growers can wait “four of five days beyond the official starting date for their village if they want to achieve better ripeness levels as there is no pressure from disease (botrytis)”. In terms of volume he expects the maximum permitted yield of 13,200kgs/ha (10,500kgs/ha less 400kgs/ha from the current reserve plus a maximum of 3,100kgs/ha that may be put into individual producers’ reserves) will easily be reached.
In nearby Les Riceys, the largest single cru in all Champagne and an important source of good Pinot Noir for many of the larger negociants (houses) where picking will start towards the end of the week (11-12 September), there is a big range in maturity on the differently exposed slopes with some already up between 10-11° degrees and other still under 9° degrees, says Gillet.
Posted in Harvest News
The Champagne harvest officially began today with the secateurs out in villages like the top premier cru of Cumières and other sites known for their early ripening. Among the early starters are Vitry-en-Perthos and several villages in the Côte des Bar region including Bligny, Urville, Ville-sur-Arce, Polisy, and Polisot.
Every village has a separate date on which producers can start picking each individual variety but many will hold off until optimum ripeness is achieved. The yield is expected to be considerable and the maximum yield agreed of 10,500 kilos per hectare plus 3,100kgs/ha for the reserve should easily be achieved in most parts of the appellation.
Now the holiday period is over Tesco is raising its game introducing a blanket 25% off all wine and champagne prices (bought in store in any combination of six bottles) while other scheduled discounts are already running for a 12 day period starting today Thursday 4 September. Under this deal the price of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label comes down to £20.81 if you buy six bottles or more and Tesco Finest Rosé to £14.99. Under its soon to end warehouse clearance sale Tesco also still has some stock left of two very decent fizzes from grower Michel Gonet at £13.89 and £18.09 respectively. See Latest Offers page for all the current deals.
The basic yield in for the 2014 harvest was set at 10,500kilos per hectare by Champagne’s governing body the Comité interprofessionel du vin de Champagne (CIVC) which regulates champagne production at its meeting just before the August holiday break. This level of yield will to produce around 305.7m bottles of champagne. This is the volume of champagne the CIVC committee charged with analysing the market believes will be needed given the relatively high levels of stocks held by producers that amounts to nearly four years supply.
It is not a particularly optimistic assessment of the current situation which is partly based on the shipment figures for the first half of 2014 that show a very slight rise of 1.4% on the first half of 2013 to 110m bottles. But of course the majority of champagne sales are made in the second half of the year — particularly the last quarter — and predicting the level of demand in the run-up to the year end is always problematic. The MAT figure for the 12 months to the end of June 2014 helps a little, that is up 0.3% to 306.5m bottles on the same 12 months to the end of June 2013. But it is a still a difficult market to read.
The calculation about what a certain yield will produce is easy enough, you just need to know the current area of productive vineyard and that is 33,600 hectares. Because predicting consumption accurately is so difficult, the Champenois have devised a system by which they can make later adjustments to allow for fluctuations in demand by releasing more of the wine held in the Réserve to boost production.
This is quite a complicated system to explain. For 2014, in fact 400kgs/ha of the 10,500kgs/ha allowed will come out of the current reserves held and not the 2014 harvest. And if shipments look like rising above 307m bottles, the CIVC will raise this to 500kgs/ha. In addition vineyard owners can also put up to 3,100 kg/ha into their own reserve stocks, providing that reserve does not exceed the limit prescribed by regulations.
Ruinart winemaker Frédéric Panaïotis talks about two new Dom Ruinart launches Blanc de Blancs 2004 and 2002 Rosé. He also pulled out a couple interesting vintages from the past by way of comparison (of which more later).
Winemaker Frédéric Panaïotis describes the two new wines in this short video
In an experiment to see the pace at which today’s champagne ages under the Baltic, Veuve Clicquot has sunk a cellar of 300 bottles and 50 magnums of its wines to a depth of just over 40 metres off the coast of the privately owned island of Silverskär. The location chosen is close to where bottles were discovered in 2010 in a shipwreck on the seabed, including several identified as Veuve Clicquot dating from 1839 which had been preserved remarkably well below the deep, dark, cool Baltic waters.
In these short video clips, Veuve Clicquot head winemaker Dominique Demarville explains the idea behind sinking the cellar below the Baltic off the island of Silverskär; why this location was chosen and what the ageing experiment will involve over the next few years.
The champagne sponsored summer of sport comes to a climax this weekend with the Wimbledon finals where Lanson has a 25-year long association with The Championship. Moët & Chandon too will also be delighted that their man, brand ambassador Roger Federer has reached the final again and hopes to take his Grand Slam singles record to 18.
If you want to celebrate F1 style you can pick up the G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge bottles in the special Grand Prix livery at various outlets including Sainsbury’s where it’s on offer currently (see latest champagne offers, also on promotion at ASDA by the case) and there’s a chance to celebrate a Lewis Hamilton victory at Silverstone as he was fastest in practice.
The Tour de France has set off in Leeds today on the first of three stages in England, finishing in London in the Mall on Monday afternoon. I’ll be there thanks to De Castelnau Champagne (see previous post).
Taittinger at the World Cup, Lanson at Wimbledon, the link between champagne and a glorious summer of sport continues later this week with Grand Départ for the 1001st Tour de France in Leeds on Saturday. And if you are quick there still a chance until midday today to win VIP tickets to the stage 3
#London finish of Tour on Monday afternoon (7 July) care of De Castelnau Champagne and Spirited Wines http://bit.ly/TDFcomp .
You have rather longer to enjoy the limited edition bottle of its excellent, richly flavoured Brut Réserve which De Castelnau has produced especially to celebrate its three year association with the Tour. It’s available at Spirited Wines priced £29.99.
Pascal Prudhomme general manager of De Castelnau with the jeroboam of 1990
At the recent London Wine Fair one of the highlights for me was the chance to taste De Castelnau 1990 vintage in jeroboam. Still fresh, but gloriously developed and complex vintage champagne like this is a joy to drink. You can get an idea of the vinous pleasure it gave by trying the current De Castelnau Brut 2000 vintage style — another ripe vintage for Champagne – that Spirited Wines sells at £38.68.
When I met up with him back in April in Reims, Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger was proudly showing off the special bottle they have produced as the official Champagne of the 2014 FIFA World CupTM, a deal secured by his son Clovis.
The UK is a very important market for Taittinger and during our conversation Pierre-Emmanuel made several references to London as the champagne consumption capital of Europe, even ahead of Paris, he was in particularly ebullient mood.
When asked for a prediction about the World Cup and who might make it to the final he suggested we might see an England France match. How realistic this suggestion is we are about to found out, but even without it, there will be lots of opportunities to celebrate sporting success with a glass of champagne over the next few weeks.