Reims, 29 June 2021
“No two years are ever alike.” That adage certainly applies to the vineyards of Champagne.
Whereas in 2020, flowering had begun particularly early — around 20 May —, this year it began in early June. That’s five to ten days later than the ten-year average, a delay that can be explained by the frost in April and cold, rainy weather in May that slowed the vegetative development of the vines.
After the rather cold weather in May, the first flowers appeared around 3 June in the Chardonnay vineyards, that variety being the earliest-developing in Champagne. Isabelle Tellier, Chef de Cave of the House of Chanoine Frères, says that in the Epernay sector, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines were still in full bloom on 18 June. Flowering in the Meunier vineyards, which was also late, was fairly rapid.
Harvest in mid-September
“If everything goes normally, the harvest should take place in mid-September, likely between 15 and 20 September, or approximately 90 days after flowering. That’s more like a somewhat normal harvest date for Champagne,” says Isabelle Tellier.
Isabelle Tellier had more to say on the impact of the spring frosts: “The consequences of the frosts in early April in Champagne are now certain: the Aube is the sector that was hardest hit, with losses of between 30 and 40%. However I do notice that the fruit load in the vineyards is fairly good overall. From what I saw in the Marne Valley the first bunches are very good.”
Palissage in the vineyards
During this very important period in the development of the vines and the future grapes, the appearance of mildew on the leaves, in particular in the Montagne de Reims and the Marne Valley, is a concern. The fungus is fairly common when the weather is warm and humid, as it was during June with its rainstorms.
But the rain has also favored growth in all the vineyards, and palissage is already well under way. Palissage or trellising separates and evenly distributes the shoots so that the vineyard is well organized in space. Isabelle Tellier explains: “It’s an important maintenance operation for the stages to come; the shoots are attached so that they’re very straight, which maximizes the bunches’ exposure to the sun and promotes ripening of the grapes. It also makes harvesting easier, since access to the bunches is better.”
In late June, the first bunches of grapes appear in the vineyards in the Épernay area.