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Champagne anticipating the arrival of a 'classical' vintage

Published:  21 September, 2021

After a run of atypically warm growing seasons, the Champenoise are joyous at the return of a high-acid, 'classical' vintage.

Charles Philipponnat, director of the historic eponymous Champagne house, told Harpers that the region was expecting a small harvest of good quality wines with vibrant acidity.

“After a difficult season, we’re somewhat reassured: yields are higher than expected, and the grapes are quite ripe, with crisp acidity,” Philipponnat said.

“The acids are around 7.5g, with relatively high malic acid proportions. So we may undertake a prolonged malolactic fermentation to avoid excessive tartness, except when the alcohol levels are above 11°and of course, in Clos des Goisses.”

According to Philipponnat, the growing season has presented more than its fair share of challenges – grey rot was a nuisance in some districts, in addition to the botrytis mould.

“Some areas of Champagne where we buy grapes from have not been so lucky with yields, such as the Aube district, Marne Valley west of Epernay and Trépail. Yet grey rot has been less of a problem than in 2017 or 2011,” he said.

The word from Champagne is that among the three key varieties, Pinot Meunier has caused growers the most headaches.

Several houses reported that the variety was badly affected by downy mildew after the June/July heavy rains.

However, growers are expecting “decent” yields of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, despite the May frosts.

“It has been a challenging year for everyone, and I make it a habit not to comment on a particular year until the grapes are harvested and the wines are born," said Krug's chef de cave Julie Cavil.

“But I can tell you that in 2021, as we have done every year since 1843, the House of Krug will create a new Édition of Krug Grande Cuvée, the most generous expression of Champagne.”

Philipponnat added: “The Côte des Blancs harvest only started over the past couple of days, so I wouldn’t risk a qualitative comment, other that it’s a bit late behind the black varieties in terms of ripeness, and the Chardonnay has retained high acidity (a good thing... when ripe).”