13 June, 2001

First sign of big grapes

Our tiny Meunier-grapes in Loisy-en-Brie.

The very tiny start of the berries is already present in the vines. Do not let yourself be cheated on their humble looks though. They are actually big, and there are more or less the amount of grapes we want. An average of 12 per plant.

It may not sound much. Last year during the grapeharvest however one grape weighed an average of 200 gram - the biggest as much as 600 gram - so despite the modest amount of grapes, there will be more than enough to meet the quota. You need 1,6 kilo of grapes for one bottle of champagne, and normally one plant delivers the necessary frut for one bottle.

At this moment we wait for the flowers. A good flowering should mean a good pollination, and eventually good grapes with berries of an equal size. Not all flowers on a grape will be pollinated, normally it is only about one third. The vines are hermaphrodites and therefore self-pollinating.

The weather is important though, rain and wind are unwelcome because they either wash off or blow away the pollen. In both cases the pollination will be less good. Grapes that have not been pollinated may either fall off or develop very small berries, that will remain small, green and hard (millerandage). Such grapes are useless.

Quotas and delimitations
The final amount of grapes to deliver can only be calculated once the quota of the year has been decided. Normally rather close to the grapeharvest when you can begin to have an idea about the amount and quality of the grapes of the year.

In the Montagne de Reims the Pinot Noir-grapes are big as well. Here from a Veuve Clicquot-vineyard between Verzy and Verzenay.

The authorized amount of kilos of grapes seem to be going slowly up. Undoubtly as a reaction on the growing global demand of champagne. The authorities of Champagne - and champagne - adjust the quota a little bit here, a little bit there - but always only a little bit: 500 or even 1000 kilos more or less per hectare to reach an average annual amount around 12-13.000 kilos.

Bigger enlargements will mean new authorizations to plant vines on soils that have not been within the appellation before. To receive such an authorization means that if you have grapes, you will be authorized to write "champagne" on your label. Otherwise you can plant grapes. And the price of your land is sure to develop in a very nice positive way towards the skies.

It is the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine), that administers the French regional quality brands, that gives the authorizations. If you have land in one of the winegrowing communes you can apply until June 30th, says "Champagne Viticole" in its latest edition.

Alain does not seem to think, it is worth it for us. Unfortunately. We could do with one or two hectares more... couldn't most, I wonder? Bigger grapes only mean more money in the sense that they are faster to pick, and you will thus need less hands at harvesttime.

På dansk

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