The Champagne harvest began yesterday (13 August) in the Côte des Bars village of Buxeuil, which is one of the southernmost villages in the whole Champagne appellation, close to Les Riceys, Champagne’s largest single cru. This is the sixth harvest since the Millennium that has started in August and beats the record for the earliest ever start – in 2018 the secateurs were out in the Grand Cru of Ambonnay on 17 August — by four whole days. The producer involved is Noël Leblond-Lenoir, a grower with 13 hectares of vineyard mainly planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir though they also have some Pinot Blanc.
Officially the meeting to decide the dates when picking can start in each of Champagnes 319 different crus, only takes place tomorrow (Saturday 15 August), but by the process known as derogation, producers can apply to the local INAO office to start picking earlier than the official start date for any village, if the grapes are already ripe. The situation this year is complicated by the fact that as yet, there is no agreement between the négociant houses and the growers as to what the maximum allowed yield per hectare will be. As we have reported in these pages already, this meeting doesn’t take place until Tuesday of next week (18 August) when the Champagne Comité sits again and tries to come to some agreement.
The harvest in Champagne has begun in August in 2018, 2015, 2011, 2007 and 2003. Prior to that you have to go back nearly two centuries to find the next earliest start and that was in 1822 when grape picking began on August 20.