Champagne, France begins “promising” harvest

    champagne-franceAccording to the Champagne Bureau (Washington, DC), 2009 should be another “high quality season” for producers of the famous bubbly from Champagne, France. Although the weather was challenging earlier, it has been dry for at least a month which is apparently helping the grapes mature faster than last year.

    Given that this is a report from a pro Champagne organization, we should of course wait until we can sip-sip the results to truly assess the vintage. But the early word looks good.

    The announcement goes into detail on the harvesting process in France which is strict. Mon Dieu! The process is completely done by hand as machines are prohibited, and the oversight committee, Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), publishes a timetable that must be followed.

    Perhaps the best part of the news is the stern warning directed at domestic producers. We are once again reminded that “true Champagne” only comes from Champagne:

    “We are very proud to see more and more U.S. wine producers embracing the importance of location, yet until all practices change, we urge U.S. consumers to carefully review labels to insure they are not mislead,” continued Heitner. “When the time is right to pick a bottle of Champagne, it is important to remember that Champagne only comes from Champagne.”

    To be fair, remember too, that only Napa wine comes from Napa! Here’s the full press release.

    Champagne Announces Forecast for 2009 Harvest

    Washington, DC – The 2009 harvest has commenced in Champagne, France as the region predicted another high quality season.

    “The recent warm and dry weather is just what the Champagne winegrowers ordered for the grapes to ripen and eventually be blended to become the wines of Champagne known the world over,” said Champagne Bureau Director Sam Heitner. “As we embark on this promising harvest season, the unique region where true Champagne comes from is well poised to continue their tradition of producing quality wines that are versatile enough to be enjoyed for a special occasion or every day.”

    The rules of the harvest are strictly set in the more than 300 villages in the Champagne appellation. The harvest began with the hand-picking of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, according to the schedule released by the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC). While the majority of the grapes are set to begin being picked this week, some regions began picking their first grapes early last week. The precise picking schedule for each of the three grape varieties is based on the location, soil conditions and the date of the spring flowering in each village.

    Each year, grape-pickers from across Europe come to Champagne’s 34,000 hectares to pick the grapes by hand. Machine harvesting is strictly forbidden in Champagne and the quality regulations of the appellation demand that only grapes grown in the Champagne appellation can be used in bottles labeled Champagne.

    While the region experienced some difficult weather conditions earlier in the year, it has enjoyed warm and dry weather for more than a month which allowed the grapes to grow and mature exceptionally well. The Champagne growers have noted that the grapes are maturing at a rate faster than last year.

    True Champagne comes only from the Champagne appellation, located approximately 90 miles northeast of Paris. The Champagne region’s distinctive chalky soil, cool climate and strict regulations come together to create a unique sparkling wine impossible to duplicate anywhere else in the world. For a wine to bear the Champagne name, all the grapes used in its production must come from approved parcels and the wine must be elaborated, manipulated, stored and labeled within the appellation.

    However, a loophole in U.S. law allows some domestic winemakers to continue to use the name Champagne and 15 other internationally recognized wine regions on wines that are not produced in those regions. “We are very proud to see more and more U.S. wine producers embracing the importance of location, yet until all practices change, we urge U.S. consumers to carefully review labels to insure they are not mislead,” continued Heitner. “When the time is right to pick a bottle of Champagne, it is important to remember that Champagne only comes from Champagne.”

    Support is growing to improve U.S. wine region truth-in-labeling practices. Earlier this year Members of Congress sent a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury urging a review of their Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau’s wine labeling system. Shortly after, the National Consumers League, America’s pioneer consumer organization, contacted Congress in support of reforming U.S. wine labeling laws to better protect consumers’ right to truth in labeling.

    About the Champagne Bureau

    The Champagne Bureau is the official U.S. representative of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), a trade association which represents the grape growers and houses of Champagne, France. The Bureau works to educate U.S. consumers about the uniqueness of the wines of Champagne and expand their understanding of the need to protect the Champagne name. For more information, visit us online at www.champagne.us. Follow us on Twitter at ChampagneBureau.

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