The dispute in Champagne has finally been settled. As a result of COVID-19, global Champagne sales have dropped, period to period, by around 80%. This has spurred tensions between grape farmers and champagne houses and the latter have vied for very low harvest allowances to ensure that stocks do not build up too much.
Peace in Champagne
Last week the Champagne Comité (CIVC) announced a harvest cap of 8,000 kilograms of grapes per hectare for 2020. This cap is a good compromise that settles the grape farmers who were feeling abandoned by their representative organ, the Syndicat General des Vignerons. At 8,000 kg/ha we are at a 22% decrease from the previous year and Champagne has not experienced such low yields since the 70’s, when viticulture could not produce more per hectare. Champagne vines have produced around 13,000 – 16,000 kg/ha in recent years and this year we are expecting approximately 14,000 kg/ha, meaning we will only harvest about 60% of the grapes we have.
The 2020 harvest
2020, from a grape perspective, is the literal opposite of what humans have experienced. Although the year started off quite warm, causing the buds to pop as early as the beginning of February, the rest of the year has been smooth sailing for me and the team. There have been no fungi or other disease to remark on. The official harvest has begun; however, we are still waiting a couple more days to let the grapes soak up more sugar. We will begin with the lot of Les Sept Vents this week, quickly followed by the lot Les Matines.
The 2020 vintage is in many ways comparable to the epic year of 2019, although with more stable growing conditions. Additionionally, acidity levels have remained high, causing us to believe that 2020 will be another fantastic year.
Quality not quantity
The decreased harvest allowance creates a situation where we are able to select grape bunches on a previously unprecedented scale. Still, it is with sorrow in my heart that I say that we will only harvest about 60% of the total grapes on the vines. However, these will be the very best our land has to offer.
Great promise of the vintage in combination with flexible grape selection lays the foundation for what is likely to be another exceptional, rare and extremely special vintage.
I have rarely felt two conflicting feelings so strongly at the same time – the major excitement for the 2020 vintage and the deep sorrow for all my “brothers and sisters” who will be left in the field. But at the end of the day, excitement takes the upper hand…
Francois Vallois, Kristofer Ruscon & the HATT et SÖNER Team