Extreme Weather Impacts Yields in Champagne

France’s Champagne harvest ended with growers relieved that the 2017 growing season difficulties are behind them. Winemakers, who can rely on blending in reserve wines from previous years for their NV designation bottles, were not as hard hit.

Vines suffered a mix of hail, frost, late rain damage, and the botrytis fungus attacked the vines this year. Most winemakers agreed that it was especially difficult for Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, yet a majority of vignerons remained hopeful for their Chardonnay.

Vitalie Taittinger, marketing and communications director for Champagne Taittinger, described the 2017 harvest as “a particularly challenging year due to frost and botrytis,” which struck mature grapes. “We are very happy with the quality of the Chardonnay grapes,” though she said it was too early to determine whether this would be a vintage year.

“It might be possible to declare a vintage for our Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs due to our cautious selection process during the harvest. Of course, we are keeping our fingers crossed,” Taittinger told Wine Enthusiast.

Late-Season Rains, Lower Yields

Most winegrowers lost between 10–30 percent of their grapes due to freezing spring temperatures and “many lost even more due to the rain at the end of August,” said Frédéric Mairesse, managing director of Champagne Barons de Rothschild.

“We had rain everywhere during the end of maturation and we had to pick the grapes very fast to avoid any additional losses,” he added. Mairesse is hopeful about the Chardonnay harvest. “It should be possible for us to have a vintage Blanc de Blancs, but nothing is for sure… let’s wait and see in December or January.”

Although yields are down in general, most Champagne houses are confident that yearly production will be normal. Olivier Dupré, president of Champagne Alfred Gratien, which produces 300,000 bottles per year, does not expect a decrease in volume for 2017.

“Alfred Gratien is a small producer. We own 2 hectares [5 acres] of vineyards and work with 65 growers, so we are able to purchase small quantities from each of them. Our commitments are easily fulfilled,” Dupre said.

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