It’s Wednesday September 8! Today, le Comité Champagne published the champagne harvest dates 2021.
All over the Champagne region, producers have been waiting for these dates, which they need to start up the harvesting process and recruit and instruct personnel. How come they can’t decide on harvest planning themselves? How does le Comité Champagne come up with the dates? And was 2021 a bad or good year for champagne? In this article, I’ll tell you all about the champagne harvest dates 2021 and its implications!
Who decides the champagne harvest dates 2021?
Every year, harvesting dates are announced by Le Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), also known as Comité Champagne. This organisation protects and promotes the Champagne region and also reports to both the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture. The Comité Champagne also closely monitors the developments in the vineyards, so they can decide on the exact harvest dates. These dates differ per village, but also per grape variety. This distinction is needed, as sugar levels evolve differently in Chardonnay compared to Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. A percentage of around 10% is needed to produce the right amount of alcohol later on in the champagne production process.
Why are there harvest dates?
So, why can’t champagne producers make up their own harvesting schedule? This has everything to do with consistency across the region. It’s in everyone’s interest that champagne remains a strong brand and this can only be accomplished if all champagne lives up to certain standards. Harvest starting dates help champagne producers in creating a consistent product that’s recognisable among all other sparkling wines worldwide. So it’s not a silly rule!
Why did le Comité Champagne take so long?
The Comité Champagne releases the champagne harvest dates 2021 only days beforehand. Because just like you and me, they can’t predict the future. Climate, temperature, frost and rain: they all influence the state of the vines and the sugar levels in the grapes. As soon as the desired sugar levels are reached, the Comité Champagne comes into action and releases the harvest starting dates. This is quite tricky, as this means champagne producers don’t have much time to recruit personnel. Especially in this corona era, flying in people from abroad will become quite the challenge.
Is 2021 a bad year for champagne?
2021 has been a challenging champagne year in many ways. Champagne producers faced winter frosts and then spring frosts followed by heavy rain, causing damage to 20-25% of all Champagne vineyards because of mildew outbreaks. Many people went into the vineyards to try and save the vines, but the wet weather made this extremely difficult. CIVC Deputy-Chairman Maxime Toubart fears that in total, half of the harvest will be lost, as he told Reuters. This sounds like a disaster, and it is, but as champagne producers always stock up on réserve wines, the impact on the market will be relatively low.
What’s the yield per hectare?
Just as there are rules about harvest dates, there are rules about yield per hectare and how much to save for réserve wines. If champagne producers put their yield into the market all at once, there’d be more supply than demand, causing prices to fall. What’s more, they’d have no réserve wines left to use in bad years such as 2021. Due to COVID-19, last year’s yield per hectare was limited to only 8.000 kg/hectare. Fortunately, international demand for champagne is rising, so this year the maximum yield has been set on 13.100 kg/hectare. Everything between 10.000 and 13.1000 kg/hectare will be saved as réserve wines, and all champagne producers with a yield below 10.000 kg/hectare can use réserve wines to reach 10K.
What happens next?
Next week, champagne harvest will begin! Thousands of people will go into the vineyards to gather the raisins that will later be turned into liquid gold. If you’d like to know what that process looks like, read this article right here.