Champagne grape growers will be allowed to pick 10,000kg of grapes per hectare of vines in this year’s wine harvest, with another 500kg/ha to be released from reserve stocks – the same figure as in 2014. The 2015 harvest is likely to start on or around 10 September.
Let me point out a couple things that might strike you as odd about this. For starters,
See, in France, unlike here in the land of the free, there are laws that dictate things like what grapes you can produce, how many you can pick, and sometimes even when you can pick them. It sounds strict and socialistic to us democratic republicans; and maybe even just down right mean. But really it’s about quality control. It may sound unpatriotic to say, but you’ve got a much better shot at finding good cheap wine if you shop French rather than American. That’s because France has their AOP system which guarantees a certain level of quality in their wine. In countries like the United States, it’s a bit of a free-for-all with very few rules governing what you can and can’t do to your wine.
In Champagne, it’s even more controlled than in the rest of France. They have a group called the Comité Champagne that decides all these things for every producer in Champagne. They even decide when a vintage in Champagne can be declared. You may not have noticed that unlike other wines, Champagne doesn’t always have a vintage on the label. And most other sparkling wines have followed suit. This is because Champagne producers are
You’ve got a much better shot at finding good cheap wine if you shop French rather than American.
And that brings me to the second thing I wanted to point out from that article: “500 kg/ha to be released from reserve stocks.” Instead of releasing all the wine they make every single year, Champagne producers keep a little bit of their stock back each vintage. Sounds greedy, right? They want to keep the best for themselves, don’t they? On the contrary, they do this because they want to be able to produce the same high quality wine every single year. Now, it’s not exactly the same every year, and so one of the coolest jobs in the wine industry can only be found in Champagne: chef de cave. It’s her job to taste the current vintage that is just harvested and figure out how much of the reserve stocks gets added so that the wine they produce this year is consistent in quality and taste to the one they produced last year. Many Champagne houses keep reserves going back as many as 15 years! It takes an amazing palate and lots and lots of training to be ready to be a chef de cave.
So yes, the French can be picky, or tight, or snooty, or whatever you want to call them; but it’s their meticulous attention to detail and desire to produce the best possible, well, anything really, from wine and food to movies and art, that sometimes can be misinterpreted this way. In reality, they just don’t want their names on anything less than exquisite. And that’s why producers in Champagne are so adamant that the rules get followed. They don’t want to let anyone produce anything that isn’t exceptional.