EPERNAY, FRANCE – The Comité Champagne has announced the 2021 Champagne harvest started on 6 September. Weather conditions in the Champagne region are good for the ripening of the grapes, but conditions across the vineyard are unusually varied. Because Champagne always picks its grapes by hand, this means that the organization of picking this year will have to be adjusted.
Weather conditions in 2021 have been challenging, with a 12-day period of frost at the beginning of the year, hail on several occasions, then persistent rain in spring which encouraged mildew in the vines. These various hazards have caused big differences in the yield and maturity of the grapes, from parcel to parcel and/or varietal to varietal.
Overall, Champagne expects to lose close to 30 percent of the yield due to frost, with an additional 25 to 30 percent lost to mildew. Hail damaged 500 hectares, with half that area losing the whole crop.
“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 all players conduct their harvests in the best conditions and so guarantee grapes of the best quality,” said Maxime Toubart, co-president of the Comité Champange. As in every year, Champagne’s Réseau Matu* guides the choice of optimal dates for the start of picking, by commune and grape variety. Individual start dates this year are spread between September 6 and 27.
The Comité Champagne stresses that this year’s exceptional weather conditions may impact the quantity of grapes, but not the quality. “The people of Champagne are accustomed to work in difficult conditions”, notes Co-Président of the Comité Champagne Jean-Marie Barillère.“They take pride in dealing with each year’s conditions to produce the great wine that is Champagne.”
As in 2020, the Champagne sector will apply stringent health precautions at harvest time to guarantee the health and safety of the harvest workers.
*The Réseau Matu is a network of hundreds of representative vineyard plots spread across the vineyard. Data from these plots allows the Comité Champagne, with the assistance of volunteer professionals, to track and analyze the progress of grape ripening in real time, and therefore optimize the choice of harvest dates. For the first time ever, a mobile phone app has been used to collect the 2021 data.