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Champagne shortage looms after frost, rot and mildew

Bad weather, rot and mildew in Champagne all mean that 2016 has been one of the lowest yielding Champagne seasons since the 1980s.

Champagne shortage

The growing season is the most complicated Champagne has known since the very difficult season of 1956, said Eric Rodez, winemaker at the family-owned Champagne Rodez in Ambonnay.

In spring, late frosts hit the Côte des Bar region, where a quarter of the Champagne vineyards are.

Jean Pierre Fleury, winemaker at Champagne Fleury in Courteron told Decanter.com the frost at bud break caused him to lose 70% of his potential harvest.

The Aube was once again hit by hailstorms later in the season, and then by the mildew epidemic sweeping through Champagne.

Olivier Horiot, a grower and vigneron at Les Riceys, estimates the sub-region’s yield will be averaging around 2,500 to 3,000 kg/ hectare, well below the 10,700 kg/ hectares the CIVC decided on in July.

Yields are set in function of sales forecast, as well as the actual crop potential in the vines, and in difficult years they are supplemented by the Individual Reserves held by growers and houses.

Charles Philipponnat, General Manager at Champagne Philipponnat, said that to meet the 2016 yields, growers and houses will have to dig heavily in their reserves.

‘We estimate that our average yield in the Marne is closer to 8,000 to 8,500 kg per hectare, which is in-line with the official estimates of 7,200 kg/hectare for the whole Champagne region.’

Rot damage

Mildew and grey rot have also been causing more damage.

Champagne shortage

Grey rot in Champagne. Image: Caroline Henry

Grey rot was first observed at the end of July but spread very quickly with 65% of the vineyards showing minor grey rot outbreaks.

Magister, an agronomic agency which monitors a large selection of growers and houses vineyards, confirmed that 99% of the vineyards monitored had mildew symptoms.

34% of the vineyards had more than 10% loss in yield due to mildew, and in 4% of the vineyards more than half the crop has been affected.

Edited by Ellie Douglas.

Related stories:

Burgundy hit by ‘worst frost since 1981’

Worst frost in 30 years may hit 2016 harvest.

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