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Champagne: First Flowers on the Vines

Reims, 26 May 2020

The vegetative cycle is definitely in advance this spring in Champagne, by roughly a fortnight. Flowering began around 20 May in the Chardonnay vineyards — the variety naturally blooms earlier than the Pinot Noir and Meunier vines.

Isabelle Tellier, Chef de Cave of the House, tells us what she sees as she walks through the vineyards: “There was practically no frost this year and the danger of frost is now over. I see that the number of bunches per cane is high, and the high load level promises a good yield. Since the harvest date is traditionally approximately 90 days after the start of flowering, we can expect to harvest in late August again this year.

The flower buds are grouped in clusters and the bunches are beginning to form. If all goes well each bud will become a fruit — that is, a grape. The inflorescences prefigure the harvest in terms of quantity and picking date.

Warm, dry, sunny weather encourages the development of the flower clusters. I’m fond of this period that lasts about ten days. The scent of the flowers, fine and slightly sweet, floats over the vineyards.

Vine maintenance continues with lifting, followed by palissage: the shoots are disciplined, lifted, and then attached so that they have maximum exposure to the sun. The even spacing of the leaves will encourage photosynthetic activity. That reduces the risk of rot, encourages ripening, and will make harvesting easier.

(Photo Isabelle Tellier - 24 May 2020: Start of flowering in the Chardonnay vineyards at Épernay.)

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