You think it’s wet and windy here. Try being a champagne grower.
Very shortly it will be harvest time in Champagne, and as this summer of fits and starts splutters to a close, spare a thought for the region’s growers, who are about to see the culmination of an extraordinarily difficult season.
For them the last few months have been truly miserable.
After weeks of heavy rain which caused one of the most violent attacks of mildew ever known, it’s still too early to assess the real extent of the damage caused to the grapes.
There are several distinct areas in Champagne, and each has a different story to tell. The Cote des Blancs has generally suffered less than the Valley of the Marne, the Montagne de Reims and the Cote des Bar.
Christophe Mignon, from Festigny, in the Marne Valley, reports an extremely complicated year, of an intensity never previously experienced, with 230 litres of rain per metre falling over 30 days in July, causing the mildew to explode. Despite 14 passes with the backpack atomizer, spraying copper, silica and homeopathy treatments, he estimates a loss of 70% of the harvest in Le Breuil and 20 to 30% in Festigny, but he tries to remain optimistic despite everything.
In Villers Marmery, on the Montagne de Reims, Mathilde Margaine says, ’The situation is quite complex here, and the increasingly reasoned treatments have not effectively stopped the proliferation of the mildew’. She awaits the harvest to really assess the damage, but expects to lose around 50% of her crop.
Down in the Aube, it’s just as complicated, with Quentin Beaufort escaping by the skin of his teeth in Polisy (Champagne), yet having to completely abandon his crop just a few kilometres away, over the border in the far north of Burgundy. Not for the first time, his Alice Beaufort brand of sparkling wines from that region have had to be shelved for another year.
All in all, the outcome is by no means clear just at the moment, but another couple of weeks and the results will start to come streaming through.
We’ll be back to report on the results according to Henry George Wine’s vignerons.