‘It could be iconic’ – quality high as Champagne faces early vintage

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Drinks: Drinks, Wines

Champagne is facing its fourth August harvest in the past 15 years as the recent heatwave continues – but 2018 could turn out to be an ‘iconic’ vintage, with quality described as ‘very promising’ so far.

Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, chef de cave at Champagne Louis Roederer, said the growing season was currently about 10 days ahead of schedule, adding: ‘With the current weather forecast, we can imagine we will be 10 to 15 days ahead of schedule at the time of harvest – probably late August.’

That would be the fourth August Champagne harvest of recent years, following 2003, 2007 and 2011, reflecting the impact of climate change on the growing season.

But, with almost perfect fruit set and no disease in the vineyards, the prospects for 2018 are very bright so far.

‘The vineyards are not stressed because we had lots of rain during the winter, and especially in late winter, so the water reserves are well-filled, [and]the vines can find the water they need in the subsoil,’ said Hervé Lourdeaux, vineyard director at Champagne Henriot.

That was a contrast with hot years such as 2003 or 1976, which lacked wet winters or cooler nights to moderate the heat, he added.

‘If August is ok, 2018 could become an iconic vintage – but wait and see,’ said Lécaillon. ‘Pinot Noir performs very well in these dry conditions: 1945, 1947, 1959 and 1976 were all late August/early September harvests, and they are some of the very best vintages Champagne has ever made.’

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Richard Woodard

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