Regardless of Extreme Drought in France, Champagne Had a Stellar Harvest This Yr

First fermentation is underway in the French region of Champagne, where the 2022 harvest has ended. Picking began on August 20 for the earliest-ripening crus. Despite drought and intense heat throughout France during the summer, a bout of well-timed rain produced excellent ripening conditions. The Comité Champagne, a trade organization that represents the interests of independent Champagne producers and Champagne houses pronounced 2022 a “solar” vintage, meaning that grape volumes were substantial, with an easy winegrowing season and healthy grapes. It’s a stark contrast to other regions of France that experienced severe drought this year, adversely affecting wine, cheese and mustard production.

Champagne Houses president David Chatillon said the 2022 harvest was “most fortunate,” noting with satisfaction that “Market demand is strong, up 9 percent at the end of August compared to the previous year, following already remarkable figures for 2021. The profession remains optimistic for the future, despite the uncertain economic climate. The fine grapes harvested this year are set to make great wines that will surely satisfy the expectations of consumers.”

The grape collection started on August 20 with Chardonnay in Bar-sur-Seine in the Aube department, with several crus within the same department harvesting that variety plus Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier two days later; the latest start date within Champagne was September 6. The dates that picking begins vary by each village and grape variety, ensuring that every plot is picked at the optimal ripeness. For the 2022 harvest, Champagne growers and houses set an available yield of 12,000 kilograms per hectare (4,856 pounds per acre). This is the highest level in 15 years, thanks to minimal losses from spring frosts and hailstorms and the excellent health of the Champagne vineyards in general. As always, all grapes are picked by hand, which is one of the appellation’s strict regulations.

The volume of grapes harvested in Champagne this year is substantial.

Leo Ginailhac

Didier Depond, president of Salon and Delamotte, said that 2022 “will be forever etched in the memories of Champagne makers. After two years marked by a shortage of grapes and difficult weather conditions, this harvest was perfect in every respect. We were able to achieve the volume . . . per hectare defined by the appellation throughout the vineyard, despite a larger yield of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier than Chardonnays in places. But it’s about quality, not quantity. Our Grand Cru Chardonnays are a perfect picture of health.”

At Champagne Charles Heidsieck, chef de cave Cyril Brun stated, “Twenty twenty-two offered a vintage combining both pretty comfortable yield, especially compared to last year, and a high level of maturity. I have rarely seen such healthy grapes at that level of ripeness and the measured acidity looks low on paper, yet the first wines do not taste like they are lacking acidity.”

Émilien Boutillat, chef de cave at sister house Piper-Heidsieck echoed Brun’s sentiments. When asked if he believes that 2022 may be a good year for vintage Champagne, he told us, “All conditions seem to be gathered to create an amazing vintage, but it is still too early to affirm anything at this stage. During the first tastings carried out, the wines presented a freshness and an interesting length. The aromatic intensity of the wines is seductive and encouraging and I am pretty confident that 2022 will be a great year for Champagne.”

Workers at Piper-Heidsieck Champagne processing grapes.

It’s still too early to tell if this vintage will be a great one.

Leo Ginailhac

Marie Doyard, the vineyard manager, winemaker and director of global sales at the family-owned Champagne André Jacquart, in the Côte de Blancs, the esteemed Chardonnay-growing region to the south of Epernay, began harvesting grapes at the beginning of September, explaining that she “waited a little before starting in order to search for a nice aromatic expression.” She also stated, “Harvest 2022 was an exceptional year for Champagne with high quality with mature fruits and quantity,” but would also not commit to whether she might one day release vintage Champagne from 2022, adding, “We will decide about a vintage after we taste the vins clairs,” the still wines that are produced before second fermentation in bottle.

“As for knowing if 2022 will be vintage or not?” Boutillat asks. “Patience—we will have to wait a little longer!” Regardless of whether 2022 is a perfect year for vintage Champagne, the high quantity and quality allow producers across the region to increase their reserves of base wine, ensuring consistent non-vintage Champagne for years to come.

Source: Robb Report

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