Following a challenging 2021 when growers battled extreme weather conditions and disease, vignerons across Champagne have been holding their breath for a good 2022. Peter Crawford travelled to Champagne to get amongst the grapes and find out what we have in store in years to come...
"They put me to work!" Is the first thing I hear from Peter when I speak to him after he returns. It turns out Marine Zabarino, from Domaine Vincey, thought she might as well get her money's worth out of Peter and sent him out into the vines with the pickers.
It's worth pointing out here that all grapes in Champagne have to be hand-picked by law (an enormously time consuming and labour intensive process), but even if this wasn't the case, it would almost certainly still be implemented in order to ensure only the best grapes are selected. The fact that Marine was confident enough to let a novice picker (sorry Peter, but you are!) loose among her Grand Cru holdings just goes to show the quality of the harvest this year, as almost everything could be collected.
Peter continues to wax lyrical about both the quantity and quality of the grapes this year. "There's virtually no disease at all – no mildew, no rot. It's all excellent."
The long hot summer has created great growing conditions across the region for both dark and light grapes.
It's just what the growers would have been hoping for after a disastrous 2021 that saw some of our vignerons lose their entire harvest. It's a great opportunity to replenish reserves and, more than likely, make a great vintage wine too.
Over the course of just a few days Peter managed to get around the Montagne de Reims, Marne and Côte des Blancs and saw great results all round. Indeed the only slight negatives to note were issues arising from the intense heat across the summer; some thickening of the skin and, in the Marne, some stress to the plots, as they lack the chalk rich soil composition to retain moisture and reflect heat.
So now, after a intense period of activity, the work is done, the juice is captured in barrels and vats and we eagerly await the results.