THE CHAMPAGNE 2020 HARVEST REPORT “SPLENDIDE!”

2020 completes an exceptional trilogy for the harvest: as in 2018 and 2019, the weather conditions have offered a very high-quality harvest, which is one of the requirements to make a great wine. The beginning of the year was particularly wet with the dampest February on record. Heat and drought set in mid-March and the vines were 16 days ahead on a 10-year average; it will not lose this edge, even registering an exceptionally fast maturation process the week before the harvesting.

While last year’s temperature record was broken (42.9°C), this year it was the driest July in history. Due to the drought, the grapes are of a lighter weight than average but in excellent sanitary condition. The musts are well balanced, fruity, with a beautiful freshness and a great aromatic expression; the alcoholic degree lies between 10 and 10.5% vol.

The year 2020 is, of course, characterized by the health safety measures linked to the Covid-19 epidemic, which had to be put in place for the 120.000 seasonal workers recruited in vineyards or pressing centres.

Given the maximum yield limited to 8,000 kg/ha, the harvest was carried out, individually, a little faster than usual but spread over a normal period of about three weeks, given the heterogeneity of maturation between vintages and grape varieties. The tasting of berries and seeds and the analysis of the sugar content present in the grapes allow each winemaker to adapt the beginning of his harvest and optimize his grape picking circuit, plot by plot, at optimum maturity.

With the superb trilogy 2018, 2019, 2020, Champagne should have in a few years blends and, probably, exceptional vintages, all living up to the celebrations of the event that the whole world is waiting for: the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

French Version

′′2020 complète en effet une trilogie exceptionnelle : comme en 2018 et en 2019, les conditions météorologiques ont offert une récolte de très grande qualité, première des conditions pour élaborer un grand vin. Le début de l’année a été particulièrement arrosé avec le mois de février le plus humide jamais enregistré. Chaleur et sécheresse s’installent dès la mi-mars et la vigne débourre avec 16 jours d’avance sur la moyenne décennale ; elle ne perdra plus cette avance, enregistrant même une dynamique de maturation exceptionnellement rapide la semaine précédant le ban des vendanges.

Alors que l’an passé, le record de température avait été battu (42,9°C), cette année, c’est le mois de juillet le plus sec de l’histoire qui a été enregistré. En raison de la sécheresse, les grappes sont d’un poids inférieur à la moyenne mais dans un excellent état sanitaire. Les moûts sont équilibrés, fruités, présentent une belle fraîcheur et une grande expression aromatique ; le degré alcoolique se situe entre 10 et 10,5% vol.

L’année 2020 se singularise bien sûr par les mesures de sécurité sanitaires liées à l’épidémie de Covid-19 qui ont dû être mises en place pour les quelque 120 000 saisonniers recrutés dans les vignes ou les centres de pressurage.

Compte tenu du rendement maximum limité à 8 000 kg/ha, la récolte a été effectuée, à titre individuel, un peu plus rapidement que d’habitude mais s’est étalée sur une durée normale d’environ trois semaines, compte tenu de l’hétérogénéité de maturation entre crus et entre cépages. La dégustation de baies et de pépins et l’analyse du taux de sucre présent dans les raisins permettent à chaque vigneron d’adapter le début de sa vendange et d’optimiser son circuit de cueillette du raisin, parcelle par parcelle, à maturité optimale.

Avec la superbe trilogie 2018, 2019, 2020, la Champagne devrait disposer dans quelques années d’assemblages et, probablement, de millésimes exceptionnels, à la hauteur des célébrations de l’événement que le monde entier attend : la fin de la pandémie Covid-19 ′′.

Source : Comité Champagne

The Fine Wine Market Expands to Further Heights

Recently reported, July proved to be a positive month for the fine wine market, due to an ever-broadening array of wines being traded.

Liv-ex states on its website that the number of unique wines traded on the exchange in the first half of 2020 was 37% higher than the same period in 2019.

These are wines marked with code known as an LWIN7, which identifies the producer or brand as well as a specific grape variety or vineyard associated with it.

The second half of the year got off to an even stronger start when the number of wines with an LWIN7 traded in July alone exceeded 1,000 for the first time, 20% higher than the previous record monthly high.

This is due to an on-going broadening of the market at the expense of Bordeaux. Although a vital component of the fine wine secondary market, Bordeaux’s share of trade has been in decline for some time now. January 2020, 46% of unique wines traded on Liv-ex were claret, but by July that figure was down 34%.

At the same time, while Bordeaux has seen the smallest growth in new wines traded, Italy, Spain and the Rhône are recording exponential growth; with unique wines traded up 154%, 153% and 127% respectively since January.

Wines from Austria, Germany, Chile and the Loire have also seen growth (from a small base) and added new and unique wines

Italy of course has been rising for some time now. In October last year it was noted that the number of Italian wines traded on Liv-ex had risen 1,500% in the last 10 years.

Italian wines were also excluded from the 25% import tariffs the US recently imposed on numerous EU produce.

Spain, a small player in fine wine, has seen the number of its unique wines traded rise to match those of the US.

Liv-ex  https://www.liv-ex.com/news-insights/

Source:  Liv-ex

France pours more aid as wine sector faces ‘Major Difficulties’

This week the government of France stepped up financial support for wine growers faced with a deep drop in demand after lockdowns closed restaurants and bars and U.S. tariffs curbed exports.

“The state will increase to 250 million euros its support plan to wine growing and we will request this aid to be distributed as quickly as possible because cash needs are pressing,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Wednesday.

Castex made the announcement during a visit to the Menetou-Salon and Sancerre vineyards in the Loire region.

“The international situation, the health crisis, a drop in exports: our wine sector faces major difficulties. State support must continue and intensify,” Castex said on Twitter earlier.

France has already provided some support, but the wine industry has called for more action.

In April, the European Commission decided to support crisis management measures in wine and other agriculture sectors affected by the coronavirus crisis.

In May, France cleared a 140 million euro ($165.87 million)crisis mechanism to distill surplus wine into industrial alcohol to be used to produce hand sanitizers.

Then in June, the government unveiled an additional 30 million euros of support for the wine industry, including 15 million for the launch of a private storage scheme for two million hectolitres of surplus wine, an alternative to distilling.

In addition to the impact of COVID-19, France’s wine industry has suffered from U.S tariffs on imports imposed as part of the trade dispute between the European Union and the United States over aircraft subsidies.

Source:  Reuters

 

Reims Tourism Office offers free Champagne to promote tourism

Attracting tourists post-Covid is undoubtedly a challenge. The Greater Reims Council has launched a new initiative called “Champagne, to make your summer awesome!” Visitors to the city will be treated to a bottle of grower Champagne. The greeting has an undeniably elegant touch, though there are some strings attached.

 

A total of 3,000 bottles, sourced from 68 different producers, will be given (one/adult) to those who qualify. The giveaway is said to have cost €50,000.

 

This initiative was launched July 15 and is subject to certain criteria. To qualify, tourists must spend at least two consecutive nights in the City of Reims, or the surrounding area, and stay in a hotel, guesthouse or gîte. Airbnb does not qualify. Also, during their trip, visitors must eat in a local restaurant and order at least one dish and drink. Fast food outlets are excluded from the list. Finally, in order to qualify, tourists must provide proof that they have paid for one leisure activity, such as renting a kayak, a winery visit, bike hire, or cinema ticket. Once they have paid for these holiday treats, visitors are required to go to the Reims tourist information office to receive their complimentary bottle.

This follows news of poor sales of Champagne during the Covid-19 pandemic. Industry body Comité Champagne said that sales were down 32% for the period January to May compared to the same period in 2019.

Champagne popping out of Covid-19 – Liz Palmer’s Presentation – Sparkling WINE Week July 1 2020

Sparkling WINE Week – July 1st 2020
Champagne Post COVID –
Session 3 – 15.30 – 16.00 Seminar: Champagne popping out of COVID-19  – Sparkling WINE Week Liz Palmer, Key Note Speaker

 Champagne Popping Out Of Covid-19

 Remember …only sparkling wine, from the Champagne region of France, can be called “Champagne”.

Brief Overview Of The Region

Location: the Champagne Region is located in the Northeastern part of France, about 1h30 from Paris by car and 45 minutes by TGV (high-speed train).

 Districts: The viticultural boundaries of Champagne are legally defined and split into 5 wine-producing districts: Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne. The towns of Reims and Épernay are the commercial centers of the area. Reims is famous for its cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims – this was previously used for the coronation of the French Kings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Grapes: Three grapes are mainly used – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier.

Other approved varietals include: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Arbane, and Petit Meslier

  • These together are less than 0.3% of plantings.

31% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay which performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk-slopes south of Epernay. Chardonnay produces lighter, fresher wines and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape used in Blancs de Blancs.  Note:  No other authorized white grapes, i.e., Pinot Blanc, Arbane, Petit-Meslier and Pinot Gris can be used in making a Blancs de Blancs.

Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 38% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends – it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and in the Aube district.

The final varietal is Meunier which accounts for nearly 31% of the plantings. This varietal is durable and resistant to spring frosts – found in Marne Valley. It produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks aging potential, but this does not deter Krug from including 15% of it in their final blends.

Champagne is a collective of over 16,000 growers and 340 houses. The region as a whole has put a proactive focus on climate change and sustainability since 2003 it was the first in the world to produce a carbon footprint assessment and identify the main sources of emissions in their systems. Based on learnings from the assessment, the region rolled out a plan to cut emissions by 75% by 2050. A nearer-term goal ensures that 100% of the area holds an environmental certification by 2030. (As of 2019, about a fifth of the region held a certification.)

Champagne Shipments

The latest shipment figures are attached [as at April 20, 2020] « too early to tell the effects » since 50% of the shipments occur between September – December 2019, the next figures are expected to be announced around the 10th/15th of July – so watch for this – usually published in French.

Going back to 2019 – Champagne reached its highest ever turnover, breaking the €5 billion mark for the first time in its history, while the start of this year was also very strong in terms of sales of the sparkling wine. The beginning of 2020 was good in terms of consumption – and now it’s a different story.

2020 Pandemic 

With gatherings over the past three months across large parts of Europe, and around the world, canceled or postponed, and bars and restaurants closed, it should come as little surprise that Champagne sales would be seriously affected, especially as the nation’s worst-hit by the pandemic are some of Champagne’s biggest markets: France, Italy, Spain, and the USA.

As a whole, the Champagne region immediately reacted when the W.H.O. declared a global health emergency with the coronavirus pandemic [January 30, 2020].  France announced the first coronavirus death in Europe [February 14, 2020].

What Initial Steps Were Taken? 

  • Adapted general safety measures in the vineyards and cellars, and made the continuation of the work possible.
  • established guidelines for « mating confusion » which usually is done by hand in large groups (the whole village at once).

What is mating confusion:  This technique is based on a natural insect (scent or aroma) pheromone which confuses a male butterfly into not mating with the female. If the insects don’t breed, they aren’t a threat to the vines – this is called sexual confusion.

Mating confusion was postponed a few times and eventually suspended and did not take place in many villages. Typically, the growers would rather take the risk to lose a percentage of their grapes to the insects, than giving up on a « biocontrol  – which is a component of an integrated pest management strategy. It is defined as the reduction of pest populations by natural enemies.

[Note: Champagne is the leading European country, in terms of surface, when it comes to mating confusion and half of their surfaces are under mating confusion].

  • During this time, the Comite Champagne reminded the growers and houses, of the strategic orientations of the region: growth in value rather than in volume.
  • During the crisis, the Champagne Region interacted with the French government, to ensure that economic measures were in place to support the domaines and wineries.
  • The Presidents and executive board members of the houses have clearly communicated that Champagne expects a fall of shipments by 100 million bottles (i.e. minus 30% to minus 35%) over the year, resulting in a loss of turnover of 1,7 Bn€.
  • During the months of April and May, Champagne has managed to establish an “adaptation” of the collective system which is aimed at ensuring the survival of the houses and companies, such as:The 2020 harvest will be bottled in two parts:

the first part, as usual, January 1st 2021;

with the second part to be bottled as of January 1st 2022

(ensuring that there is a reasonable level of production in 2020 (in order to sustain domaines and all players, who depend on selling grapes). This avoids providing the markets with too much wine.).

[Note: Currently there are almost 4 years of shipments in stock (or 1,43 Bn bottles)]

  • The French government was solicited to reinforce the “Loi EGalim” or “**EGalim Law”] in the French off-trade, because it has had, in the past, positive effects on the Champagne market overall by limiting extreme discounts.

**[in long form this represents – law for the balance of trade relations in the agricultural and food sector and healthy, sustainable, and accessible food for all].

  • The EGalim Law set recent promotions as follows: 1 bottle offered for 3 purchased, as opposed to « buy one get one free ».

[Note: This call to the government is a positive sign on Champagne being firm on its value growth strategy.] 

Increased Digital Activities

  • The growers, houses and the Comite Champagne have all changed the way they communicate including increasing their social media activities.
  • recently launched Champagne education platform [Mook] champagne-mooc.com.

Classic Version

Course in English with subtitled videos

Access to 4 educational modules

The Champagne making process

The Champagne terroir

History and Economy of Champagne

Diversity and Tasting

Free

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Premium Version

Course in English with subtitled videos

Access to the 4 educational modules of the classic version

Additionnal contents:

Extra videos

Test your knowledge

Get the official Statement of completion

49€ (taxes included)

Strategy – Post-COVID

  • The main driver to rebuild a « desire for Champagne » is to collectively build the visibility of Champagne as a region that has invested in an eco-friendly production management [this is a number one concern for consumers 25-35 years in many key markets] and Champagne as the drink for celebrations, and special moments, but also the drink to make moments special — Champagne as a treat during hard times, a break within the rush, a comforting drink, for some.
  • And as Louis Roederer’s cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon states “We make something which is not essential but, at the same time, it is essential for pleasure and bringing people together. We make a wine for celebration, so we decided that, in difficult times, it is important to do what we do and try and make an even better wine for the future.”
  • Some brands, including the Union of Growers have organized charities to support medical teams in the region.
  • The environmental effort of the region (previously mentioned), for the last 20 years and with objectives set for 2025, 2030, 2050, these strategic fundamentals are long-term.

Harvest 2020 

  • There was initially a challenge to get seasonal workers for the upcoming harvest above at least 50% of the 120,000 required. With most coming from Eastern Europe, it’s both a challenge to determine how and when they can travel to France, and then to implement social distancing which anticipated for the end of August. This is no longer an issue as the UE will be reopening and students will be available.  The challenge remains to implement social distancing.
  • This is a manual and collective task that can cause incredible logistic challenges (transportation and meals).

Champagne Tourism

  • When it comes to tourism the region has adapted the government guidelines to reopen and the sites have just started to open.

France is Europe’s most-visited country, making tourism a key pillar of the economy.

  • Experts say it’s too early to evaluate the full effect of the COVID-19 crisis, but the European Commission is already calling for a new “Marshall Plan,” using EU funds, to save the tourism industry.
  • Once the lockdowns are fully over, and plans for a vaccine are in place, we will all want to celebrate – with Champagne of course!

Sources:

Comite Champagne
Thibaut Le Mailloux
Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon

 

 

Liz Palmer

liz@liz-palmer

www.liz-palmer.com