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Late Champagne harvest should still bring good balanced vintage

Published:  18 October, 2013

Picking for the 2013 Champagne harvest has, in the majority of plots, been the latest in nearly two decades after a prolonged growing period, according to the Comité Champagne.

Whilst some of the more prestigious houses started their harvest on September 24, the majority had to wait until the first few days of October for the grapes to be at their best for picking, the latest in two decades. But the Champenois are confident the vintage will be comparable to those of 1983, 1988 and 1998, which were also the result of late harvests.

It follows a turbulent year for Champagne growers that started with a "cold, wet winter, followed by a gloomy, chilly spring with a lot of rain", according to the Comité Champagne. As a result vine development began two weeks later than the 10-year average.

The vintage, however, was, boosted by a "hot dry summer, boosting fruit quality" and what was the most sunshine ever recorded in Champagne in July and August.

The rain that followed on September 6 onwards "helped to fatten the berries but stopped in time to allow good conditions for final ripening," said the Comité Champagne.

It added: "Considering the lateness of the harvest, the weather this year was exceptionally good - almost summer-like with unusually warm temperatures and sunshine, and a wind from the east to help keep the grapes healthy. It was a year of big differences in the timing of the harvest."

Champagne's governing body has set the yield limit for this year's harvest at 10,000 kilos per hectare. Most houses expect to reach this level, with only a few falling short due to "millerandage (shot berries), hailstorms and botrytis".

The vintage is expected to produce average alcohol levels of nearly 10% abv with good acidity averaging around 8.5g H2SO4 per litre, which together should provide good balanced Champagnes.