At the start of harvest on September 2, Champagne winemakers were looking back on a climatic roller coaster ride. Record temperatures in February had been followed by widespread severe frost damage in May, which in turn was followed by the absolute heat record for Champagne of 42.9 degrees on July 5. It is, of course, far too early to make a valid assessment of the vintage, but one can get the impression from tasting barrel wines that the best producers in the region have never before understood how to adapt to such capricious weather. 2019 seems surprisingly balanced with plenty of ripe fruit with appealing, lively acidity.
After two changeable seasons, a year with exceptionally high ripeness in a historical context, as well as associated low acidity and high alcohol gradations. In many places, the grapes were already harvested at the end of August, and some winemakers even reported a new record for the start of harvest.
Everywhere absolutely healthy, botrytis-free harvest and satisfactory yields. The future will show how the certainly powerful wines of this exceptional year will develop.
A rather complicated vintage with nevertheless partially hopeful results. After a warm March with early budbreak, devastating frost damage occurred on the morning of April 20, causing many vintners' yields to shrink irretrievably to less than half the long-term average in many cases. In early summer, the situation calmed down a bit before prolonged rainfall set in at the end of August, which made absolutely meticulous selection necessary. Those who were able to get a grip on the rampant gray rot in particular were finally able to harvest a small but nevertheless fine crop from the beginning of September. The best wines of the year show themselves pleasingly mature and harmonious.
Difficult vintage with low yields, a good third below the long-term average. The spring was marked by late frosts and partly also hailstorms. The warm, dry early summer prevented the worst, but in some places the situation threatened to go to the other extreme and drought stress was on the horizon. In August, the weather again swung to the other extreme, so that Chardonnay in particular suffered from the heavy rainfall. With conscientious vineyard work and the strictest selection, the best winemakers in Champagne were nevertheless able to harvest small quantities of more than satisfactory quality.
An exceedingly warm vintage, characterized by full ripeness and good yields. Pinot Noir in particular benefited from the stable warm climate that prevailed throughout the growing season. The results here are partly spectacular, especially in the Grand Vallée and in the Montagne de Reims. Drought was a particular issue in vineyards with more permeable soils, but Champagne's best winemakers have now learned to deal with this increasingly common phenomenon. Overripe wines with little tension, as in the comparable year of 2003, have been largely avoided. With Chardonnay, the picture is more ambivalent, but most first-class producers tend to be satisfied with the results.
The beginning of the season was anything but promising and decidedly rainy, though a simply brilliant September saved the day. In many places, the top producers in Champagne were able to harvest very healthy grapes, some of which were even riper than average, so that 2014 will go down in the annals, if not as a great vintage, at least as a very satisfactory one. The Pinot Noir tended to benefit a little more from the partly record-breaking late warmth. In the Vallée de la Marne and in the Motagne de Reims, there was great satisfaction everywhere, only in the Côte de Blancs the yields were below average, although the best vintners were able to bring in outstanding qualities here as well.
Peter Liem's declaration of love for the 2013 vintage: "After the rich, concentrated ripeness of the 2012 vintage, 2013 is the exact opposite: elegant, introverted and lean. It reveals itself slowly and quietly, and thrives on finesse rather than power. There are champagnes of exceptional purity and pure expression, and as the wines evolve, this vintage is proving to be one of my favorites of the last twenty years.
In a sense, 2013 was a retro vintage, a return to the conditions of the last century, and in this age of global warming, it is increasingly unlikely that we will see similar vintages in the future. Until 2013, Champagne had three harvests that began in August, and all of them fell in the last decade: 2003, 2007 and 2011. In 2013, the situation reversed: While some areas with early-ripening grapes started harvesting in late September, most villages in the Marne (and most quality-conscious producers) did not start harvesting until October.
The main reason for the late harvest was the cool and rainy weather in the spring, which delayed flowering until June or even early July, depending on the area. The persistent cool temperatures, especially at night, resulted in slow flower development. Wet weather into July threatened the spread of powdery mildew, and yet all signs pointed to a bountiful harvest, which was welcome news after the lower yields of 2012. The weather in July and August was exceptionally hot and dry, which favored rapid ripening of the grapes.
2013s are classic in a positive sense: they feel ripe without a hint of excess. The wines tend to be long and lean, with a healthy acid backbone, and they express their terroir clearly and precisely.
The two areas that have particularly excelled are the southern Côte des Blancs around Le Mesnil and Oger, and the southern slopes of the Grande Vallée and the southern Montagne de Reims from Aÿ to Bouzy and Ambonnay. The area that suffered most from the rainfall was the Aube, where there was twice as much rainfall as normal between January and June, and there was another period of heavy rainfall in August and September. This led to widespread problems with powdery mildew, which damaged much of the crop, although most growers were satisfied with the quality, even if volumes were exceptionally low.
A changeable vintage, not easy to grasp, but with outstanding results, not least among the best winemakers. A rainy spring with late frosts was followed by an equally exceptionally hot and stable summer with heat waves similar to those of 1998 and 2003. Grape ripening was very fast after the aforementioned teething problems, but a series of cool nights ensured an excellent balance of power, ripeness and acidity. Some of the leading producers are therefore already ranking 2012 among the illustrious ranks of the top years 2002 and 2008. In terms of grape varieties, Pinot Noir is, in the eyes of most experts, the undisputed star of a small but exceedingly fine vintage.
Climatically a year of records with the earliest harvest since 1822. An unusually early flowering was followed by a constant period of heat, which was only ended by significant rainfall at the beginning of August. This led in some places to rot problems, especially in Pinot Meunier, whereas Chardonnay can rightly be considered the beneficiary of the year. The weather during the harvest was warm and humid, tending to give better results to the winegrowers who decided to harvest early. Although 2011 does not present a uniform picture, it can be said that the best representatives have rather low alcohol levels, coupled with good ripeness and fine-nerved acidity.
A complicated year with a hopeful beginning and a rainy end. For a long time, the development of the grapes was absolutely normal and unproblematic, so that the winemakers of Champagne were already looking forward to a good vintage. However, August threw a spanner in the works, as it turned out to be exceptionally wet and tended to be cool. The rot pressure was considerable, and the Pinots were particularly affected. A bright spot are the wines of the Côte de Bar, here were produced numerous vintage champagnes, which are characterized by a vital acidity with medium body.
A warm vintage with good yields and quite high ripeness, but somewhat inconsistent across the board. Only a few vintage champagnes were produced. The rather early grape ripening was somewhat slowed down by some cool nights in August, so that the best representatives were able to retain a bracing acidity. September and thus the harvest went largely smoothly in dry conditions. Those who kept their nerve and did not harvest too early were rewarded with charming, harmonious wines. The Côte de Bar achieved the best results, the Chardonnay turns out quite mineral, the Pinot Noir rather full-bodied.
Together with 2002, undisputedly the best vintage of the decade. Good weather conditions everywhere without any extremes ensured perfect physiological ripeness up to the harvest. The wines of 2008 are elegant, complex, lively and well structured. They have good ageing potential and most of them are predestined to be vintage champagnes. All varieties are equally convincing, but 2008 needs quite a bit of time to show its full brilliance. The best houses did well to put the tops of the vintage on sale late.
Budding and flowering took place record-breaking early, the warm and stable climate until August let the winemakers of Champagne hope for an exceptional year. However, heavy rainfall in the summer put a spanner in the works, although not fatally. Conditions improved again immediately before and at the beginning of the early harvest. In the Marne Valley, the quality was particularly mixed, while the Côte des Blancs produced many good to very good wines. Overall, an inconsistent year with wines that reflect the weather capriciousness.
Excellent to outstanding vintage, marked by a late heat wave at harvest time in September. As a result, in all sub-regions, rather opulent, hedonistic wines full of ripe fruit with a tendency toward moderate acidity. The powerful Pinot Noirs and supple Pinot Meuniers were particularly brilliant, but Chardonnay also showed satisfactory to excellent results. Initial fears that the full-bodied wines of the vintage would not age well have since been impressively refuted by numerous great counter-examples. A vintage for connoisseurs.
A climatically demanding vintage for the nerves of Champagne winemakers. The year was characterized by changeable weather, but at least the harvest was relatively calm, resulting in good ripening of the grapes. Although quite few vintage champagnes were produced, most - and the best - were produced on the Côte des Blancs. The Chardonnay is clearly the winner of the season, the best examples turned out fresh, noble and persistent. The best Pinot Noirs, which are less abundant, are vinous and clearly structured.
A respectable vintage with high yields, perhaps a bit too high in some places. A golden autumn had largely compensated for the weather capriciousness of spring, but the uneven grape ripeness required a high selection effort. Those who behaved accordingly were able to harvest complex, fresh and lively Chardonnays in particular. Pinot Meunier also did well to very well. Quite a few vintage wines were produced, the best representatives combining exemplary high degrees of ripeness with vital acidity and being able to age excellently.
A year of extremes, beginning with fatal frosts in the spring, which greatly minimized yields. This was followed by a summer of the century with record temperatures, culminating in one of the earliest harvests since records began. The few grapes were perfectly ripe, the base wines were round, fruity and high in alcohol - only acidity was lacking almost everywhere. Not many vintage wines were produced, the few that were, presented themselves not uncharming, early accessible, round and ripe. However, this heat vintage should not be given too much maturity.
Nearly perfect, balanced weather conditions throughout the growing season quickly made 2002 a vintage with legendary status. The Champagne winegrowers were able to harvest perfectly ripe, healthy grapes almost everywhere, which also retained exemplary acidity levels. This rare combination has always guaranteed truly great champagnes with extraordinary aging potential. Although all varieties were above average, it is above all the best Chardonnays from the Côte des Blancs that are among the best that Champagne and its top producers have produced for decades.