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Champagne 2011 harvest could be earliest since 2003

August holidays have been cancelled in Champagne in anticipation of a very early harvest, possibly the earliest on record – especially if the warm weather of March to the end of May continues.

Flowering was generally completed before the end of May and in some places the vines were in full flower by 21 May.

Adding 92 days – the average time over the past decade in Champagne between flowering and the start of the harvest—picking could start on 22 August.

However because August is usually warmer and has more sun than September, it is possible the period between flowering may be even shorter, at just 80 days, which means the first grapes may be cut on August 16.

The lack of rain also tends to accelerate the date, Louis Roederer winemaker Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon said, adding that he ‘would be ready to start from August’.

Didier Mariotti, winemaker at GH Mumm, said he would also be ready to start on 16 August – or earlier : ‘Based on our model of 80 days [from flowering to harvest] with Chardonnay we could start as early as August 11.’

Dominique Moncomble, director of technical services at Champagne trade council the CIVC said flowering has taken place around three weeks in advance of the average in Champagne and was especially early in the Côte des Blancs.

The earliest harvest on record came in the ‘heatwave summer’ of 2003 when the secateurs were out in the Côte des Bar village of Bligny, in the southernmost part of the appellation, on August 18 and many producers had completed harvesting before the end of August.

This was partly because picking didn’t last the usual two weeks as severe frosts had decimated the crop.

Written by Giles Fallowfield

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