Champagne’s 2011 harvest has commenced. The harvest of grapes from the carefully delineated plots of the Champagne region officially began on August 19, 2011.
The combination of an exceptionally early flowering, limited spring rainfall and many sunny days has led to one of the earliest harvests for Champagne since 1822. The three prominently planted grape varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier – are now being hand-picked across the appellation located approximately 90 miles northeast of Paris. Weather conditions and forecasts are favorable for the next few days, with only a few thunderstorms on the horizon.
“The Champagne appellation is one of a kind, and the grapes being picked today are the only grapes that can be used to make Champagne,” says Sam Heitner, director of the Champagne Bureau in the United States. “As we celebrate another successful harvest from this unique region, we are reminded of the importance that location plays in every bottle of wine and renew our call on the United States to join the majority of the rest of the world in reserving the term Champagne only for wines made with grapes from this specific place.“
There are many sparkling wines made around the world, but the Champagne only comes from Champagne. In addition to allowing grapes to be grown only in a limited number of plots within the region and requiring harvest by hand, the Champagne appellation has strict regulations regarding all aspects of the cycle – from the planting of the vine through harvest, pressing and bottling – all designed to ensure quality for consumers. The grapes picked today will go into non-vintage wines that sit on the lees for at least eighteen months, reserve wines for future non-vintages or, if the producer deems this year’s harvest worthy, vintages that remain in the caves for at least three years.
“This year, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), the region’s trade body, has raised the amount of grapes that can be harvested in a given area to 12,500 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha),” says Heitner. “They believe that this will keep Champagne on track to meet the growing demand. This is good news for Champagne enthusiasts everywhere, as more people will be able to enjoy real Champagne, which can only come from Champagne, France.”