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Delayed Champagne Harvest Gets Go-Ahead

Pickers will soon be out in force in Champagne
© AFP | Pickers will soon be out in force in Champagne
It's a late harvest all over France, but producers are confident about the quality.

Grape pickers will head out into the vineyards of Champagne on September 24 to begin the 2013 harvest – almost two weeks later than usual.

From Tuesday, growers in the Côte des Bar area have the official go-ahead to harvest their grapes, with their counterparts in the Marne permitted to start Wednesday.

“The start date given is set by law, but from then on it is up to every grower to decide when to harvest according to the maturity of their vineyards and their picking teams,” the regional wine trade association, the CIVC, declared.

“The vast majority of the harvest should start in late September in order to benefit from weather that looks favorable for the final maturity of the berries,” explained Pascal Férat, president of the union of growers, the SGV.

Férat noted that the vines have been approximately two weeks behind the region’s 10-year average after a particularly cold and rainy spring, but there is very little disease pressure.

“This delay has not compromised the quality of the wine. In the past, we have had a number of late years that produced great vintages,” he said.

At the peak of the harvest, some 120,000 seasonal workers will hand-pick grapes from Champagne's 34,000 hectares of vines.

Elsewhere, harvest has also come late to the Jura region. Its sparkling harvest kicked off today, with grapes destined for still wine due to follow on September 30.

“The yield will be relatively low, but because of the sunny weather expected this week, we are quite confident about the quality of the crop,” said Daniel Cousin, head of the Jura wine association.

This year's harvest of the region's most notable white variety, savignan, which makes vin jaune, will be particularly small, according to Marie Darnand, a local viticulturist. “The bunches didn’t form very well due to the cold weather in May,” she said.

The cold spring and the late harvest have also affected Alsace, which finally started its sparkling-wine harvest on September 19.

“The 2013 harvest is late compared to the past 10 years, but Alsatians with long memories know that an October harvest can happen. It was the norm in the 1970s and 1980s,” said Frederic Bach, director of the Alsace Winegrowers’ Association.

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