This year's bumper crop, which producers estimated was twice the normal size, set an all-time record. Due to high yields and the number of acres planted, "2004 is the largest harvest in Champagne history," said Daniel Lorson, spokesman for the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, the region's regulatory body.
However, producers do not expect quality to suffer. "Not only [is] the maturity there, but also the acidity is high, which is a great necessity for us in Champagne," said Bruno Paillard of Champagne Bruno Paillard, adding that he believes that 2004 is vintage quality.
The Champagne region suffered no major spring frosts, and the cool summer was followed by warm, sunny weather in September that produced healthy, ripe grapes. "We have nice, satisfactory sugar and alcohol levels," said Philippe Court, director general of Taittinger.
Moët & Chandon's enology director, Phillippe Coulon, expects the quality of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier to be good to outstanding, but he and Court said the Pinot Noir berries ripened unevenly within the bunches, requiring strict sorting.
--Jacob Gaffney and Bruce Sanderson
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