Will the World Run Out of Champagne? Don't Panic

Wednesday, 24 November, 2021
Wine Spectator, Alison Napjus
Hail, frost and mildew meant the 2021 growing season was the toughest in years, but quality is high and reserve wines will ensure there is no Champagne shortage

Producers in France's Champagne region concluded this year's harvest with a big sigh of relief. The 2021 growing season was one of the region's most challenging in decades, dogged by frost, mildew and hail. But all is not lost, leading Champagne houses and growers insist. The reduced crop that they were able to harvest still shows outstanding potential.

The Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), Champagne's governing trade body, announced the official start of harvest and picking Sept. 6. At the same time, the organization released a devastating series of statistics: Frost destroyed an estimated 30 percent of Champagne's 2021 crop in April and early May, mildew reduced the potential harvest an additional 25 to 30 percent, and hail damage struck 1,235 acres of vineyards, about 1.5 percent of the region's total acreage, with roughly half of the crop among those 1,200-plus acres lost entirely.

"This year has been quite complicated," said Mathilde Margaine, who works with her father, owner and winemaker for the family's A. Margaine, based in Villers-Marmery. She noted that several nights of frost that hit vineyards throughout France in April were not as impactful to all of Champagne, because most vines had not experienced budbreak yet in the region's northern subzones. But in the Aube subregion, the most southern portion of Champagne, the vines were already well-developed when several nights of frost between the second week of April and first week of May decimated the young buds.

"After [the frost], the nightmare really started," said Margaine, describing hail in May and June that damaged and destroyed vines in some parts of Champagne, including two plots that Margaine owns in Trépail. Other areas were completely spared.

 

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