Last month we reported that the harvest in Champagne was likely to be well down on the maximum yield set of 9,700 kilos per hectare, with some regions like the Côte des Bar, particularly badly hit. As picking begins in half a dozen crus today (12 September) – two villages one in the Aube and one in the Marne départements actually started picking black grapes on Saturday (10 September) — it seems that the average expected level of yield is no more than 7,000kgs/ha. And there are major differences between different areas of the appellation. In parts of the Aube/Haute-Marne, devastated by frosts, average yields are unlikely to be higher 4,000 kg/ha, whereas in some crus of the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs yields could reach as high as 10,000 kg/ha.
The vineyards have been hit by a difficult mixture of frosts, hail storms, cold and very wet weather that has caused a major headache with mildew. But the latest problem has been the heat as Charles Philipponnat said on Friday “The strong sunshine and heat of the past five weeks has caused extensive damage ‘Grillure’ or scalding. There aren’t really any qualitative issues for vinification in white, but still a little bit more of the harvest has been lost.” He published two pictures of Pinot Noir in Mareuil-sur-Ay, where the eponymous house is based, showing healthy grapes on the north side of the row and shrivelled bunches on the south side.
Speaking in London last week (1st September, as he received a special award for the house’s new MCIII NV cuvée), Moët & Chandon chief winemaker Benoït Gouez said: “We have just taken 150 samples from all over the vineyard and there is a big variation in the relative maturity of grapes – from 2% to 9% potential alcohol – and a little damage from sun burning.” Because of the recent very warm, dry weather, “most of botrytis has dried, but it could return if there is more rain. We plan to start picking around the 19th [September].” Based on their analysis he predicts yields on the Moët estate will be on average around 7,800kgs/ha. The berries are larger than we expected at between 135-145gms. In terms of ripeness Chardonnay is some 2deg less ripe than the black varieties (Pinot Noir and Meunier) which is further behind than is usual at this stage.”
Speaking at the same CSWWC awards dinner at Vintners’ Hall, headwinemaker at Louis Roederer, Jean-Baptiste Lecallon, who picked up three trophies including Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year, said that on the Roederer Estate in Champagne, he expects the average yield to be around 8,000kgs/ha.
We should know more about how the harvest is panning out with picking due to start more widely towards the end of this week.