Posted: 24 Sep 2010 04:45 AM PDT
We've had gloriously warm, sunny weather for a week or more -
fabulous weather for picking grapes -
and now this morning the rain is back and it's still coming down hard at 13.00 hr as I write this blog.
As you can see from this picture, taken at about 08.30 in Verzenay, harvesting in the rain doesn't look quite as much fun as when the sun is shining and the pickers have just got their T shirts and shorts on.
That's just part of the deal when you sign on as a picker. You harvest come rain or come shine.
Still, there's the comforting thought that at the end of the day the champagne will be flowing as freely as the rain is right now.
I was speaking yesterday with two producers in the Côte des Blancs where the vineyards are predominantly planted with Chardonnay. Unlike the vignerons near where I live in Pinot Noir territory, both producers were fairly up-beat about the harvest. Good sugar levels and not too much rot, they said.
That's not to say they felt it was going to be a vintage year - they won't come to any decision about that before they've had a chance to run tests on the still wines in the vats and then taste them again next Spring - but at least they didn't rule a vintage champagne out as a ridiculous suggestion.
Sometimes against all expectations, the most difficult years can turn out to produce good champagne. 2003 was a case in point. Very bad Spring frosts followed by a scorching summer that literally burned the grapes on the vine, and a very small harvest. Still, a few houses declared a vintage nevertheless, Moët & Chandon being the best known perhaps.
Then again, if the chardonnay in La Côte des Blancs is of better quality, that would favour houses who use a high proportion of that variety in their blends, even though champagne houses that major on Pinot Noir from La Montagne de Reims, or Pinot Meunier from La Vallée de La Marne may be struggling.
It's a bit like when Zhou Enlai, a former leader of China was asked, around 1950, what he thought the impact of the French Revolution had been on Western Society. He replied enigmatically, that it was too soon to tell.
Meanwhile watching the rain run through the vineyards paths can be beautiful too.
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