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Winemakers in Champagne are banking increasing demand for their sparkling wines will continue for years to come. With less than a month until the anticipated start of harvest, they are preparing to bring in their largest crop in more than a decade.
The Comité Champagne, the wine council which governs independent producers and Champagne houses, has set the yield limit for the 2022 harvest at 12,000 kg per hectare, with an allowance for growers to bring in even more grapes to replenish an inventory of reserve wines used in the blend of multi-vintage or non-vintage Champagnes.
The increased supply is necessary following two small crops. First, there was a lower yield set in 2020, 8,000 kg per hectare, due to drought conditions in the vineyards and the decrease in exports during the pandemic. Last year’s harvest came in even lower. The crop was greatly reduced by frost at the start of the season, followed by persistent rain and incidents of hail. As a result, producers have relied on reserve wines made in previous vintages to produce the necessary quantity of non-vintage products.
To help top up the tanks, the Comité Champagne has extended a reserve credit to growers over the next three years. A vineyard that only harvested 7,000 kg per hectare instead of the permitted 10,000 kg per hectare yield in 2021 will be able to harvest an additional 3,000 kg of grapes this year be picked and processed into wine for future use.
The current supply in Champagne cellars is estimated to satisfy 3.5 years of sales. The Comité Champagne aims to have 3.8 years of product in inventory.
Following a drop in sales in 2020, when COVID-19 had its greatest impact on Champagne consumption, sales have rebounded. Champagne’s regional wine council reports an almost 14 per cent increase in shipments in the first half of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021. International exports are up 16.8 per cent, and France is up 9.3 per cent.
An early harvest is expected this year, with a healthy and abundant crop according to the Comité Champagne. If current conditions continue, growers predict the grape harvest will start during the last 10 days of August.