14. okt. 2016

Champagne 2016: Challenged by rain

In Champagne, 2016 has been marked by rain. Not least the grape harvest in late September. So what to expect from the grapes of such a year as we'll meet their tickling bubbles against our palates? We dropped the last grape in our black buckets only a few weeks ago but the final result remains difficult to predict. But as the season has been unusual ever since April, it is hard to imagine that the final bottled champagne should not be something special as well.

Now, it is not exactly hot news that growing grapes in Champagne can be a tricky affair. It has been so for centuries. Still, in 2016 it did seem more miraculous than ever to watch the balance between success and failure tilt to the positive side. In Soulières, residents must be closer to 100 years than 50 to have experienced a season with such a narrow margin. Mainly due to rain: Seemingly endless rain throughout spring gave us problems all summer. Then a few millimetres of rain shortly before the harvest made the grapes put on weight badly needed.

This allowed us to land 35 tonnes of pretty and healthy Chardonnays and Pinots. We began in the morning of September 21st and finished just before lunch seven days later. With a lot less grapes than usual but enough for the 8.000 bottles of Tange-Gérard champagne, we sell every year, and on top of that grapes for our coop. By now, most of it will have finished its first fermentation. Once stability is reached, next year, this very young wine will go through a second alcoholic fermentation in bottles to be blessed with bubbles by sugar and yeast.

Complicated season
In the vineyards this year, frost followed right after the first leaves were out. Maybe that's what disturbed the growth for the rest of the season. Or maybe the long draught of 2015 disturbed the production of grapes this year. Anyway, the big variation between the development of the plants was one factor that made 2016 such a challenge all the way.

Throughout the spring, the constantly pouring-down rain delayed the development of the vines further, it disturbed the flowering and made the fight against mildew rather constant throughout the spring to the end of July. Only in August the weather finally changed with temperatures far beyond 30 degrees Celsius. The heat saved a good deal of our grapes from the disease, but they were still small and few that we hired one third less people than usual to pick them. Five millimetres of rain few days before the start added substantially to the weight of the grapes - miraculously - now we wait to know more about their taste.

The must and the wine
We have tasted the must directly from the press. Especially Pinot Meunier is rich as our black grapes got very mature. Their future is mainly red as the colourful element of our otherwise Chardonnay-based rosé champagne. The Chardonnays were picked last, which helped to supply them with more sugar and less acidity in a fine balance between these decisive poles. It is still to early to say in which way the rain of 2016 will finally express itself in the wine. But stay tuned. The continuation will follow in a bottle hopefully near you in some years.

Current champagnes
Until then we suggest non vintage of some age (Tradition and Noirs & Blancs), vintage Blanc de Blancs (2006 and 2010), two rosé types (Chardonnay-based Rosé d'Assemblage and Pinot Noir-based Rosé de Saignée) and finally a sweeter Demisec. In 2017, we expect to present the first bottle in a coming-up series of new Tange-Gerard champagnes for you.

Harvestgreetings from Alain Gérard og Solveig Tange, Soulières, october 2016

Be sure to enjoy