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The 2020 Harvest: Very Good Quality This Year

Reims, September 2020

2020 has been a decidedly early year in the Champagne vineyards. Bleeding began in late March, followed by leafing-out, formation of the bunches, flowering and the first fruiting; all stages of the vines’ vegetative cycle have come early this year. The precocity was encouraged by a sunny spring and then by continued hot, dry weather in summer. As a result, harvests began very early, starting in mid-August.

In the cellars of the House of Chanoine Frères, reception of the musts began on 23 August, from Meunier grapes from the Montagne de Reims, and ended on 9 September with Pinot Noir d’Ecueil, also from the Montagne de Reims. The House receives musts from all the Champagne regions — Montagne de Reims, Côte des Blancs, Marne Valley, and Les Riceys.

Pinot noir grapes - Épernay, France, 2020

Isabelle Tellier, Chef de Cave, gave us her first impressions of the 2020 harvest:

—The grapes are sound, even if the berries are somewhat small; ripeness is good overall. The state of the grapes’ health is satisfactory. Ripening was very rapid in early August, then slowed a little as a result of drought and the hydric stress it causes. This year we observed sunburn — a natural phenomenon caused by the heat when the bunch is exposed to excessive sun on the most exposed side of the row.

The winemaking process went very well for us. Our winemaking practice involves two separate fermentations. The first is alcoholic fermentation, which turns sugar into alcohol through the addition of yeast. Then comes malolactic fermentation that encourages development of new flavors. That lets us bring out the typicality of the grape varieties, which is characteristic of the style of Champagne wines and of our House.

Overall the 2020 harvest shows fine quality, even though I am noticing a certain heterogeneity depending on the grape varieties and the sources. In my opinion we’ll need to wait a few weeks longer before making the final call.

Chardonnay grapes - Épernay, France, 2020

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