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The Champagne Vintage 2016

by Richard Geoffroy

I have mentioned years of extremes in the past: 2016 might be a year of extremes to the point of excess, with such a stark contrast between the seasons. The spring, during which we had to deal with hail and frost as well as the most precipitations and the least sunshine in the last 20 years, was very taxing. To the contrary, the month of August was drier and became warmer at the end, to the point of sunburn for some grapes.

All these excesses combined with the diversity of our terroirs created very heterogenous circumstances for growth and maturity. Our typical harvest pattern was profoundly modified. For once we started in the Chardonnay terroirs later than in the Pinot Noir: Avize was picked three days after Hautvillers! In the end we had to be very reactive and constantly adapt our picking itineraries to these exceptional conditions.

The harvest started in Champagne on September 13, shortly after the heatwave of late August, early September. The rainfall on the week-end of Sep 17-18 worried us at a moment where grapes were so fragile. Fortunately the sun immediately came back and we experienced once again the “Champagne miracle”: everything progressed without further delays or complications until end of September.

Without having started tasting the wines yet, our intuition from harvest is that some Pinots Noirs, in particular from the Grand Cru vineyards of Aÿ and Bouzy, could be majestic. Chardonnays will certainly show a nice citrusy freshness; but will they reach enough complexity to enter a Dom Pérignon assemblage?

The story of the 2016 vintage is yet to be written…

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