As Harvesting Begins in Champagne, Over Half the Grapes Have Already Been Lost
But don't worry about a Champagne shortage: The region has a constant contingency plan.
Across France, the wine industry has had a terrible 2021 growing season. Early on, in April, devastating frosts caused damage at about 80 percent of the country's vineyards, and through to last month, when Provence was hit by some of the worst wildfires France has seen in decades.
So for Champagne lovers, news that the region's harvest has officially started as of September 6 may come with a sigh of relief. However, it also comes with an unfortunate statistic: The Comité Champagne — the appellation's official trade association — announced that as much as 60 percent of the region's yield may already be lost due to this year's poor weather conditions.
Specifically, the Comité Champagne says that the 12 days of early frost in April likely cut yields by 30 percent, followed by "persistent rain" throughout the spring which allowed mildew to claim another 25 to 30 percent. Making matters worse, the region was hit with hail on "several occasions," damaging over 1,200 acres of vineyards, with half losing their entire crop — though thankfully that represents less than one percent of Champagne's total vines.
Yet despite all the damage, optimism prevailed as the harvest got underway, sticking with the familiar mantra that a drop in quantity will not mean a drop in quality. "The people of Champagne are accustomed to work in difficult conditions," Jean-Marie Barillère, co-president of the Comité Champagne, stated. "They take pride in dealing with each year's conditions to produce the great wine that is Champagne."
And no matter how small the harvest may be, the region says drinkers shouldn't be worried about any major Champagne shortages. The Comité Champagne actually runs a region-wide reserve stock system where producers are required to set aside wine during bountiful years to help fulfill demand after any poor season like 2021. The moral: No matter how bad a year Champagne has, they are committed to having enough champagne to toast the next one.