Champagne Deutz Harvest Report 2017
Champagne Deutz provide us with an assessment of the 2017 vintage in Champagne appellation. This was a challenging year with spring frosts and late season humid conditions seeing grey rot effecting the two Pinot varieties with an inevitable loss in yield as well. Here then is the Champagne Deutz report.
Excitement, fear and relief…
Each year brings us its share of surprises, good or bad. The old folk used to say that one should never get excited about a vintage until the harvest has been brought home, and this year has proven them right. Excitement at the prospect of a high-quality, high-quantity harvest changed to fear at the possibility of seeing a year’s work wiped out by the vagaries of Mother Nature with the health of the grapes deteriorating just before the harvest. As it turned out, thanks to rigorous sorting in our vineyards, we were able to preserve the quality, at the expense of quantity.
Spring frosts and a dry season
Cold weather and drought characterised the autumn and winter seasons. There was even a cold snap at the end of January with temperatures dropping below -10 ° C. In short, we had a real winter!
March was warm (the warmest in 20 years, +2.5 ° C above average) and resulted in an early bud break: around April 4th for the Chardonnay, April 6th for the Pinot and April 10th for the Meunier. These dates were ten days earlier than the 10-year average. Unfortunately, a spell of bitterly cold weather, which started on April 18th and culminated in the frost of April 20th, caused considerable damage. All areas were hit. In the Deutz vineyards, the losses were estimated at around 23%. The white grape areas of Oger, Villeneuve and Bisseuil were the worst affected.
May and June were dry and June was particularly hot with a heat wave which is unusual for this time of year. Flowering occurred quickly and in good conditions. Full flowering officially took place on June 5th , 8th and 10th for the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier respectively, ten days ahead, which suggested that the harvest too would be early. We therefore planned to be ready to leap into action at the end of August. Fortunately, the water deficit staved off disease. Mildew, that we had to battle so hard against last year, was almost absent, as was powdery mildew. So, up until August 15th, we were feeling optimistic. The grapes had made the most of the rainfall at the start of the month and the dynamics of maturation were good: all systems were go!
But Nature decided otherwise…
The drought we had been experiencing since the start of the year then gave way to a warm, humid, tropical-like atmosphere. A succession of storms changed the shape of the harvest to come. The grapes, which had been very healthy up until that point, were attacked by Botrytis Cinerea. This grey rot, feared for its devastating effect on quality, made its appearance on the black varietals. In just a few days, the smooth path to a lovely grape harvest had become strewn with obstacles.
We then faced the dilemma of deciding between the maturity or health of the grapes. The Deutz picking teams led by Patrick Boivin, our vineyard director, and Cédric Georget, his right-hand man, finally started harvesting in the Vallée de la Marne on September 1st, around a fortnight earlier than usual. As always in the Deutz vineyards, we decided to go for quality rather than quantity. A rigorous sorting was carried out in the vineyards. Only healthy grapes were harvested, others were removed, further reducing the yields. By a stroke of luck, cool temperatures in September led to a stabilisation in the health condition of the grapes and this held up until the end of the harvest.
After 12 days of harvesting, the average yields were 8,400 kg/ha. They were certainly lower than the 10,300kg/ha allowed by the Interprofession for 2017, but they were still acceptable after the losses caused by the frost and the sorting.
Our Chef de Caves, Michel Davesne, and his deputy, Olivier Bernard, noted a good balance in the musts coming off the press: on average 10.5% vol. potential alcohol and 7.5 g/LH2 SO4. They were delighted with the excellent values recorded for the finest plots in Ay, such as La Côte Glacière (10.9 % vol. potential alcohol – 7.3 g/LH2 SO4) and Meurtet (10.5 % vol. potential alcohol – 7 g/LH2 SO4). The Chardonnay grands crus, such as Avize (10.9 % vol. potential alcohol – 6.1 g/LH2 SO4) and Oger (11.2 % vol. potential alcohol – 6.3 g/LH2 SO4), were also promising.
The baton has now passed from the growers to the winemakers. Although our fears have been replaced by the pleasant prospect of some nice blends, Fabrice Rosset, our Chairman and CEO, is quick to remind us that the verdict can only be delivered in a few months’ time, when the vins clairs have been tasted.
So, as we at Deutz let “time do its work”, we will wait until March or April before thinking about, maybe, creating “an Amour de Deutz 2017” or perhaps a “Hommage à William Deutz 2017 – Single vineyard”.