Characterised by record rainfall, a lack of sunshine, spring frosts, hailstorms, high downy mildew pressure and sunscalding, 2016 has not been an easy year for Champagne.
The conditions of this difficult wine-growing year have cut the volume available to harvest by at least 30%. They are also responsible for an extreme disparity in maturity levels between the grape varieties, between the sites and between the plots, making it necessary to fine tune the grape-picking schedule. This has been a real challenge for the Champagne Growers and Houses which have to manage the 100,000 or so seasonal pickers who harvest the grapes entirely by hand.
The harvest start date was set at 10 September for communes with the earlier crops and 27 September for the later ones. It was completed during the first week in October. The weather was almost summery throughout the harvest apart from a few days of rain which impacted positively on the weight of the clusters. This meant the average crop yield forecast could be revised upwards, to just over 8,000 kg/ha.
By drawing on the Champagne reserve, whereby some base wines are put aside in good years, the Champagne Growers and Houses will be able to supplement this yield, ensuring the replenishment of stocks to the standard annual level, i.e. around 316 million bottles.
Thanks to good maturation conditions, the clusters were in excellent health. The average alcohol content should be approx. 10% vol. with a total acidity of 8 gH2SO4/L. Although caution is still advised at this stage, many sources are highlighting the excellent acid/sugar balance and aromatic quality of the musts.
Thibaut Le Mailloux
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