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20-11-2018 14:16

Champagne in de put

 

Te slechte most en teveel chemie

 

In de Champagne-streek gaat het de wijnboeren niet bepaald voor de wind. Het laatste oogstjaar verliep rampzalig. Ofwel er kwamen teveel rotte druiven binnen die minderwaardige most opleverden, of er moest flink tekeer worden gegaan met herbiciden. Vooral dat laatste is slecht voor het imago van de duurste wijnregio van Frankrijk, die al jaren predikt van de gifspuit af te willen, maar dat in de praktijk niet snel genoeg bereikt.
Caroline Henry sprak voor Wine-Searcher met enkele voormannen uit de streek. Een stand van zaken.


‘Champagne growers are praying for an easier vintage this year.

A "disastrous" vintage has left Champagne producers faced with making wine from half-rotten grapes, while excessive herbicide use is putting the future of the famous region at risk.

Last month more than a thousand of professional Champagne lovers descended once again upon the region for the Printemps de Champagne. Over the last few years the ever-growing annual tasting week has become a must-attend event for the international trade and press, and it is often viewed as Champagne's En Primeur week; a rare opportunity to taste the still wines and evaluate the previous vintage. Yet this year, the events were more focused on the introduction of new cuvées about to hit the market and prestigious old vintage tastings.

This change of focus may be logical for anyone who remembers the 2017 harvest. Dominique Demarville, cellar master at Champagne Veuve Clicquot, reminisced on the complicated growing season: "In 2017 we saw many disasters; the season started early so when frost hit at the end of April, it caused a 30 percent potential yield loss. May, June and July were very dry and hot, triggering heat stress in the vines, and in August we received between 100 and 150 mm of rain generating ideal botrytis conditions." Technical pre-harvest reports, which are drawn up per village, showed that, by the time harvest was in full swing, up to 50 percent of the region's vineyards had been infected by gray and sour rot. Meunier and Pinot Noir, which account for 70 percent of the region's plantings, were particularly affected.

 

Substandard

And even if the CIVC and local papers hailed the Champenois for their excellent sorting efforts during harvest, the vins clairs tell a different story. In December, at the technical conference hosted by the AVC (Association Viticole Champenoise), the CIVC announced that 30 percent of the 2017 still wines showed mold-induced defects. While this is the official figure, many producers have a much bigger problem. Christophe Bonnefond, wine operations director at MHCS (Moët Hennessy Champagne Services) and chef de cave for Champagne Mercier, admitted that much of the juice the company received had been substandard, resulting in an overall "very average quality wine". While he stressed that MHCS's great reserve wine library still assured "correct quality", he also jokingly predicted an increase in the "sweet cocktail style" cuvées in years to come’.

(Read more)