05 October, 2001

Laws of champagne must be followed

Quotas, pruningsystems, different dates of harvesting... the line of laws and rules, that the winegrowers of Champagne must follow to be allowed to write champagne on their etiquettes sometimes seems infinite. And since it is hardly possible for any authority to controle it all, you at times may get the heretic idea that it may all be just for the sake of good looks and high prices. Well, it is not, and we have recently seen good, solid proof.

This concerns an acquaintance that makes his leaving from performing different taskes in vineyards of other people in the Côte des Blancs. He has put himself into trouble after letting different teams pick grapes in the region of Vertus. But at wrong starting times.

Four different starting dates
In Vertus grapeharvest happens to be a rather complicated affair, because the plots are divided into four different zones. This is due to big differences between the plots. Some are placed on slopes around Vertus, others on completely flat land. An orientation that is important for the maturity of the grapes. In Vertus this means four different start dates for the grapeharvest.

From a technical point of view this is of course the best thing to do. The grapes are simply harvested at a better time. But it is also very complicated for an employer who have to plan how he can hire a group of people and get everything harvested in a continuous period of time.

Our acquaintance this year made a crucial mistake. He mixed up the starting dates for these different zones, and thus harvested some grapes at wrong times.

Bureaucrats in farmer's country
A detail so far out in the land of farmers, that the bureaucrats in the INAO - that is the organisation under the Ministry of Agriculture that guards the AOC's - of course would never have hear about it. If not helpful neighbours took care of whispering the news about the mistaken harvest dates into the ears of the right people. Which lead to a bustle of bureaucrats from Paris in the affected rows of vines.

So now we know: It does matter whether you stick to the rules or not. You always run the risk, that somebody would feel like telling somebody else about those who may not do as they are supposed to.

We expect to take over a very mistreated plot this autumn. A plot that will need a lot of manual work, before it can meet the technical requirements. But I suppose we will not be charged with anything as long as we work on the state if it and change it for the better.

The grapes harvested at wrong times were rejected, by the way. So it does matter after all.

På dansk

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