Champagne producers have just agreed to set the maximum yield level for the 2018 harvest at 10,800kilos per hectare. This is the same level as was agreed for the previous harvest in 2017, though that included 500kgs/ha to be released from the reserve, so it was effectively 10,300kgs/ha. After severe April frosts in 2017 and then major problems with rot just before picking began in late August the average yield for the 2017 reached 10,057 kg/ha, according to the provisional figure released by the Champagne Comité.
So far, the 2018 growing season has been relatively problem free and once again, after very warm weather with temperatures well above the 10-year average from April to June and more than 750 hours of sunshine, compared with the seasonal average of 630 hours, picking is expected to start in August. This will be the fifth vintage in the last 15 years to begin in August.
It’s been another strange growing season with an unusually wet winter that saw a record-breaking rainfall of 345 mm from November 2017-January 2018, surpassing the previous record of 338 mm recorded in 1965. Flowering took place in early June under near perfect conditions and the crop potential looked large, considerably higher than 10,800kgs/ha set by the Comité, but the lack of rain is said to be worrying producers. There are however hopes that it will be a very high-quality harvest.
While the yield level decision taken a few days ago by the Comité — made up from representatives of the growers in the Syndicat Général des Vignerons (SGV) and the houses belonging to the Unions des Maisons de Champagne (UMC) – necessarily reflects nature’s bounty, it is also adjusted to meet predicted demand. And the Comité is quite bullish about future demand, predicting: “stable sales in 2018 and growth over the next few years, especially in Champagne’s export markets, which now account for more than 50% of total shipments”.