ÉPERNAY, France – The earliest crus began picking August 17, which made this the earliest harvest in the history of Champagne – and the grape quality was outstanding.
This year continued the exceptional pattern set by 2018 and 2019. A top-quality harvest is the first requirement for the production of a Grand Vin, and weather conditions were just right to deliver that.
The start of the year saw high rain. February received the most rain ever recorded for that month. Heat and drought conditions then commenced in mid-March, and the vines budded 16 days ahead of the 10-year average – a head start that was maintained with an exceptionally rapid ripening dynamic right up to the week before harvesting commenced.
Last year a new temperature record was set (42.9°C/109.2°F), and July 2020 was the driest ever recorded. Due to the drought, the weight of berries was lower than average, but their condition was excellent. The musts are balanced and fruity, with a fine freshness and a grand show of aromas. Alcohol measured in the musts range between 10-10.5 percent vol.
The COVID-19 epidemic led to an increase in health safety measures to protect the 120,000 seasonal workers who came to work in the vines and the pressing centers.
With yields limited to a maximum 8,000 kg/ha, the harvest at an individual level was completed somewhat faster than usual, but picking was spread across a normal period of around three weeks, taking account of variations in ripening from cru to cru and between varieties. Tasting of berries and seeds and the analysis of sugar levels in the grapes allowed each winegrower to adjust the start of their harvest and optimize the order of picking, parcel by parcel, to hit the point of optimum ripeness.
A run of three superb harvest years means Champagne should be ready to offer exceptional blends and vintages in a few years, fit to celebrate the event for which the whole world is now waiting: the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Champagne Bureau, USA, is the official U.S. representative of the Comité Champagne, a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France. The Bureau works to educate U.S. consumers about the uniqueness of the wines of Champagne and expand their understanding of the need to protect the Champagne name. For more information, visit us online at http://www.champagne.com.