Champagne Harvest 2020
23rd September 2020
Despite having been an excellent year in the vineyards in Champagne, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on sales, both in the domestic and foreign markets. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the region has not seen a drop in sales of such a proportion, with a loss of € 1.7 billion and less than 100 million bottles unsold, that will increase storage costs for large producers. The drop in sales is comparable to the big crisis after the economic depression of 1929.
Always associated with joyful moments, celebrations, professional success and social life, the effervescence of Champagne is often the most vulnerable to economic crises, when consumers budget is lower.
However, with regard to the quality of the 2020 vintage, the issue is different, with the harvest being considered excellent and early. According to Aurélien Poussin from Champagne Robert Allait, the start of the harvest on the 22nd of August is the earliest he’d seen, caused by a dry and hot spring. He adds that the speed of the rate of ripeness required the winemaker’s careful attention. With no doubt this year saw a perfect level in the grapes, with no need for selection in the vines. Among the major grapes, on the Marne valley, Pinot Meunier had an optimal ripeness and balance between sugar and acid. In the Montagne de Reims and La Grande Vallée de la Marne, Pinot Noir was the last to ripen with approximately one week difference from the other grapes. In the Côte de Blancs, Chardonnay vines suffered from a high incidence of powdery mildew caused by extremes in the temperatures between day and night in the months of July and August.
Nevertheless, the production volume per hectare estimated for this year could reach potentially in some areas 16,000 kg/hectare. However, in Champagne yields, as normally fixed at around 10 tons. In 2019, the CIVC fixed yields at 10.8 tons per hectare with 600 destinated for the réserve.
In 2020, one of the most debated points regionally was the fixing of the yield for the harvest. The large houses, over-stocked, intended to harvest 4,000 kilos per hectare, at the beginning of the pandemic, a fact that generated disapproval on the part of small producers. After months of debates between Unions and representatives of CIVC and Vignerons, the yield was finally set at 8,000 kg/hectare. A loss without a doubt for small producers, since the quality is very good.
Anyway, 2020 has everything set to make it a great harvest with plenty of vintage Champagne produced, which will not reach the market for at least 3 years, but will tell the story of a challenging year.
Written by Luiz Batistello DipWSET
Founder of Wine Tours Paris
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