Ten years on from the ‘harvest of the decade’, 2018 has delivered a massive windfall to the region of Champagne with the uncommon coming together of quantity and quality.
Following years of disappointing growing conditions, 2018 was different, bringing on high and healthy yields, rich in sugar and aromatic definition.
What began as extremely wet conditions turned into unusually hot and sunny days from April that were well above the norm. Between April and June there were 750 hours of sunshine, up from 630 hours on average. Budburst occurred from April 15 and full bloom from May 30 – some 10 days ahead of the 10 year average. Growth of vegetation was so rapid it sparked a mixture of joy and concern amongst the Champenois.
Marketable yield was subsequently set at 10,800 kg/ha, the maximum for what may be turned into champagne as soon as possible; important in meeting worldwide demand. In addition, 4,700 kg/ha could be harvested to replenish all-important reserves which had suffered greatly under the devastating conditions of the 2017 vintage. Reserve stocks are a necessary consideration each year, legally obligating producers to set aside a percentage of their yield from each harvest as a kind of insurance against future poor years. This brought the upper limit of the yield to 15,500 kg/ha; the maximum allowed under the rules instituted by the INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité).
The cut and thrust of harvest may be over for another year, but its potential is only just beginning. Now it’s over to the cuveries which will go about their work, in an almost clandestine way, during the cold and dark days of winter as the land lay dormant. The following spring will bring opportunities to confirm the high hopes of what seems almost certain to be an exceptional vintage.
WORDS |Sara Underdown
PHOTOGRAPHY | Victor Pugatschew