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8 September 2021 in Épernay – In Champagne, harvesting began on 6 September 2021. The industry notes good weather conditions for grape ripening, but a situation that contrasts widely across the region which will require the picking (which is always done by hand in Champagne) to be adjusted accordingly.
Weather conditions in 2021 were challenging, with 12 days of frost at the beginning of the year, hail on several occasions and then persistent rain from spring onwards which led to the appearance of mildew in the vines. As a result of these weather hazards, grape maturity and crops are very uneven between one plot and another and/or one grape variety and another.
Overall, the industry expects to lose nearly 30% of the yield because of frost, in addition to losses of between 25% and 30% owing to mildew. The hailstorms damaged 500 hectares, with half that area losing the whole crop.
Maxime Toubart, Co-President of the Comité Champagne, said: "Variations in ripening across the vineyard call for an approach to harvesting that is adapted to suit each part of the vineyard. We are ready to help everyone involved to harvest under the best possible conditions to guarantee grapes of the very best quality." As every year, thanks to its Réseau MATU*, the Comité has determined that the optimal dates for the start of picking, by village and grape variety, are between 6 and 27 September (unless a specific exemption is granted).
The Comité Champagne stresses that whilst this year’s extreme weather events may impact the quantity of grapes, their quality will remain unaffected. "The people of Champagne are accustomed to working in difficult conditions," Jean-Marie Barillère, Co-President of the Comité Champagne, points out. "They take pride in dealing with each year’s conditions to produce the great wine that is Champagne."
As in 2020, the industry is taking the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of pickers during this harvest.
* Réseau MATU: This is a network of hundreds of representative vineyard plots spread across the wine-growing region. Data from these plots allows the Comité Champagne, with the assistance of volunteer professionals, to monitor and analyse the progress of grape ripening in real time, so as to define the optimal start dates for harvesting. This is the first year that a mobile phone app has been used to collect the data.