Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2007 Review: Champagne Vintages: 2007 Not a Good Year?

Region: Champagne
Grade: B-

If growers were able to take advantage of the maximum yield permitted by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine, France's winemaking governing body, 2007 will be the largest Champagne crop ever. But with wine, as other things, size doesn't always matter. It was a difficult growing season with hot weather early on, followed by an extended stretch of rain, ultimately ending with an early harvest. So the relatively good wine quality—with relatively big volumes—that producers are now anticipating comes as more of a surprise than an expectation.

The weather in April was unseasonably hot. As a result, flowering occurred in May, about a month early, yet it was heterogeneous from one region to the next, and even from parcel to parcel within the same village. That was followed, however, by a cold, wet summer. There were several hailstorms mid-July, affecting more than 2,000 acres with 100 percent damage in parts of the Vallée de la Marne and Côtes des Bar. The lack of sunshine during the summer months set a record for Champagne. But on Aug. 24, good weather returned, along with a drying east wind. Many houses started picking by the end of August and finished by the third week of September.

"We had a fairly good harvest, at least unexpected after the poor summer we had. Globally, both quantity and quality were met," said Olivier Krug, director of Champagne Krug in Reims.

Yields across varieties were uneven as a result of the tough weather. The crop was very large for Chardonnay, but smaller for Pinot Meunier. The Chardonnay was affected least by the chaotic weather conditions, and was therefore the most consistent in terms of ripeness. The maturity of both Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir were more varied as the varieties suffered from attacks of mildew and botrytis in several spots.

Producers reported that the potential alcohol is slightly below the average since 2002, yet the acidity in the wines is higher than normal—but nothing to worry about. "At first the numbers look high, but the proportions of malic acid are rather high [above 50 percent], so the wines will soften significantly through malolactic fermentation," said Benoit Gouez, chef de cave at Moët & Chandon.

Many producers said that it is too early to determine whether vintage Champagnes would be made from the 2007 harvest. The process of tasting the vin clairs (base wines) began in October. Once the selections and final blends are made, the yeast and sugar will be added to begin the second fermentation in bottle.

"It has not been easy this year," reflected Richard Geoffroy, chef de cave at Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon. As a growing season, he called 2007 "very emotional."

—Bruce Sanderson


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