Unlike harvest 2017 when I saw in Champagne the grapes so much affected by botrytis that I could never imagine, this autumn Instagram is flooded with captivating pictures of beautiful grapes of the harvest 2018 now in full swing. Champagne Gimonnet posted a cluster of Chardonnay of 600 grams from which 3 glasses of Champagne can be made (1,2 kg of grapes are necessary to get 1 bottle of bubbly) “ Nature gives us a present. Very seldom I have seen such level of quality in Champagne” say on Instagram @Champagnegimonnet
The harvest in Champagne is different from any other wine region. It is regulated in terms of date when picking can begin as well as the quantity of grapes that can be picked up and transform into wine with AOC Champagne.
The harvest debuted on the 20th of August in Buxeuil, in Department de l’Aube for all 3 varieties of grapes. Only in 1822, two century ago, the harvest started on the 20th of August. In the last 15 years, this is the fifth vintage to begin in August according to Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne ( 2003, 2007, 2011,2015). CIVC states the official dates of debut for each village and grape variety, each year, to assure the level of quality.
The weather conditions of this vintage were as exceptional as extreme. The growers faced record breaking rainfall of 345 mm /ha between November 2017 and January 2018. The winter was long and cold followed by a soft spring with warm temperatures and many hours of sunshine boosting the flowering in June. July and August were constantly warm pulling the harvest to an early start. The temperatures were higher than the average of the last 10 years..
The optimism for this year is high. 2018 is expected to be generous in quantity with very healthy grapes, well ripe of high quality.
Champagne growers and houses establish each and every year the annual yield considering the potential sales in the next years as no one wants an excess production. 2018 is estimated to be a very productive year with a high agronomical yield (some says 15000 kg/ha). Expecting stable sales in 2018 and a slight growth over the next few years a conservator level of 10,800 kg/ha, the same level as in 2017 was set, according to CIVC.
In this generous year, it is expected from the growers to harvest more than the annual yield and the surplus wine will reconstitute the Champagne reserves widely used in 2016 and 2017, notoriously poor years.
2018 is a welcomed blessing. The grapes are healthy with beautiful maturity and high productivity. All three varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier- had a very good level of phenolic ripeness.
2018 will be known as an exceptional vintage. Exceptional for the early beginning of harvest and for the high quality of the grapes. Even if it is too early for certainty it is expected an outstanding millésime.
Written by Olimpia Pleșa Brandhuber