Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Harvest is Almost Here

The champagne harvest is going to start in a few days. At last, a “normal” mid-September harvest! (Last year’s harvest began on 23 August, yet only a generation ago, harvest was typically in October.) As with all areas of France, the starting date is strictly controlled by the authorities, who determine when each village can begin picking each variety. Many thanks to Francis Boulard of Champagne Raymond Boulard, who posted this schedule of the official starting dates for 2008 on his blog, from CIVC info given to the newspaper L’Union. Most growers are starting next week, but meunier in Cumières (one of the warmest villages in Champagne) can be picked as early as this Saturday.

The overall quality is still uncertain as the weather continues to be erratic, but the quantity is definitely going to be below average, thanks to a cool flowering and uneven fruit set. Meunier in particular is going to be relatively low-yielding. People are reporting that the grapes are healthy, however, which is a relief after such a damp and mildewy summer.

I snapped some pre-harvest photos today as I was out and about:

Pinot noir grapes in Petits Cintres, in the Clos des Goisses

Le Cognet Robert in Aÿ (that’s Bollinger’s Côte aux Enfants in the background)

Chardonnay vines in Cumières Les Crayères


Brooklynguy said...

If a grower picks earlier, what is the penalty? Can the resulting wine not be labeled Champagne? And is there a deadline by which grapes must be picked? Nice photos.

Peter Liem said...

I think (although I'm not sure) that if you pick beforehand you lose the right to the appellation. But anyway you can always file at the Castle for special permission to pick early, if you've got a warm plot that's ripening quickly. They send controllers to monitor you and measure all your alcohol and sugar and whatnot to make sure that the special permission is indeed warranted, but you're okay as long as you file the proper paperwork. Not that much of that is happening this year — I think most growers are still waiting for optimum ripeness. As far as deadlines, no, I think you can wait until January if you really want to. But the birds will have eaten all of your grapes by then.

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