2019: Troubled season & possibly best harvest ever
2019 gave us another champagne harvest that turned out different than anything we ever saw. Unusual weather, an unexpected pattern of maturation and what seems a still shorter cycle from full flower to newly pressed must of the smallest clusters anyone remember.
Our conclusion: We have never delivered more mature grapes to the presses. They made it through the warmest summer ever measured in Champagne and kept sufficient acidity. It is hard to imagine the coming-up wine in the caves without a great champagne potential.
Classical and new humps for the grapes all summer
The journey of the grapes began in the most classic of ways in April: cold weather, a bit of frost and hail in one of our Chardonnay-plots. It was disturbed in its development all summer. Full flower in second part of June with expected grape harvest mid-September. Ever since the flowering, the summer interchanged between warm and extremely warm with a record in Champagne on July 24th at 42.9 degrees Celsius. Between 5 and 25% of the grapes in our plots were sunburnt or completely damaged. This meant clusters with less grapes, and as it hardly rained at all, the grapes remained were small as well.
The maturation set off as average in early August, some weeks later the grapes began to pile up unusual levels of sugar. Few and small clusters could profit from the abundant sun. Cooler nights probably did curb some of the speed. We still had to call for the team five days early because of this insanely fast maturation. Around 20 French and Danes came for a week to pick these beautiful clusters with no trace of disease, incredibly mature yet fresh and acid.
Wine on its way under cooler conditions
Great champagne begins with good, healthy grapes, and measurements of sugar and acidity was not enough to determine this. What is on the tip of your tongue will have to bring your sensorial experience all the way to zenith. In 2019, this aromatic balance showed at a much later state of the maturation than seen in other years. Never before did we have to try out that many grapes to decide for the perfect timing. This enabled us to deliver better grapes than ever to the press.
The must had hints of peach and pineapple, we’ll see if they’ll be around on the state of wine. Cooler weather since the harvest is a plus as yeast prefer lesser temperatures to work. For this autumn, we have no big plans, maybe a shorter stay in oak casks to gain in complexity. Our expectations are good: 2018 was super, 2019 may turn out better. We’ll know in some years.
Vieilles Vignes on the way to your glass
In the meantime we suggest our first vieilles vignes champagne from 2015: 100% certified, sustainable Chardonnays from two plots, planted in the 1960s (Certification: Viticulture Durable in Champagne). This champagne is doublefaced: one face is that of a warm year, the other is that of the old vines. This new single will join Solliage (2013) and Solliphere (2014). We are looking forward for it to find its way to good homes, where it may contribute to making the difference of good times and great ones.
We continue to sell our brut classics like non vintage Tradition and Noirs & Blancs, the rosés Rosé d’Assemblage and Rosé de Saignée as well as the vintages Blanc de Blancs (2012/13) and Selection (2009/08).
Warm regards, Alain Gérard and Solveig Tange, Soulières, September 2019