19 June, 2002
The year of records continue in Champagne. A spring, warmer than usual, followed a winter, warmer than usual; a flowering, earlier than usual, will very likely leed to a grapeharvest, earlier than usual as well. Even the quota of grapes seem to surpass those of the last years. Not because there are more grapes than ever though. More likely it is linked with the global demand of champagne. On the rise, on the rise.
The professional organization of champagne, the CIVC, has suggested a harvest of 14.000 kilo of grapes per hectare, and winegrowers and champagnehouses so far said only ok and yes please. In 2006 the similar quota was 13.000 kilo per hectare. So it is a decent increase, that reflects the need for more grapes to satisfy the global thirst for champagne.
Quota, I beg your pardon
This quota now and then is the subject of some wondering, sometimes some people are even amused, especially when they are not French: "Sorry, you say, you make champagne, and that you don't use all the grapes you have?"
"Excactly, We pick the amount of grapes, we are allowed to", is our answer. The rest, if there is a surplus, is left to rot on the vines.
French people find regulations, orders, laws and instructions of such very necessary. When I ask amongst friends and family anyway. How would you otherwise govern such an anarchistic population on just a basic level? When winegrowers can only sell or make champagne of a certain number of kilos of grapes, they have no interest growing extra. The hard pruning performed here gives healthier plants, less and therefore better grapes, which eventually results in a better product.
Reserve is part of quota
A key question may be, whether there will be enough grapes to reach this quota of records. We still don't have the final answer whether the pollination in our plots has been good or not, but both where we are and here in the Montagne de Reims, winegrowers keep an eye on millerandage (grapes with berries of very different sizes). It is a phenomenon, that is an unpleasant possibility after the kind of very-changing weather that accompagnied the major part of the period of flowering.
The suggested quota is a combination of 12.400 kilos of grapes per hectare from 2007 and 1.600 kilos of grapes per hectare, that are either blocage or deblocage. This means that the 1.600 kilos per hectare either can be supplied as an amount of wine from earlier years, that corresponds with the amount of grapes, or - for those who don't possess the necessary reserve - can deliver new grapes. As we interpretate the complicated announcement from the CIVC.
So, anyway, a maximum amount of grapes and wines can be sold or put into production to end up with enough still wine to make 395 million bottles of champagne. The first of them will only be introduced on the market in 2009. The grape quota of 2006 was big enough to fill 360 million bottles, the first of these will be sold next year. In 2006 approximately 321 million bottles of champagne were sold all over the world, 2007 so far seems to be even better saleswise.
Great all in all. But least for new winegrowers like me, who not yet have access to the special blocage/deblocage of 1.600 kilos of grapes. Now, it is not likely, that there will be fruit for it in my plot anyway, so it is not that hard to get by.
I would probably not be very impressive on my own trying to block one of the gates of the city of lights with - let's say - 10 ton of stems, removed from the vines. (Since I will certainly not have enough rotten grapes.) And I certainly don't have the right temper for this kind of actions either. So I might as well hope, that the hard pruning of the vines this year has given the power injection needed for the plant to have more fruits next year. And in 2008 I expect to have obtained full rights as a winegrower.