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Leading Champagne houses hopeful about 2012 vintage

Published:  14 November, 2012

Perrier-Jouët has likened early results of this year's harvest to the 2004 vintage, while G.H.Mumm has declared it is "cautiously optimistic" now the grapes have been gathered and pressed.

Perrier-Jouët has likened this year's harvest to the 2004 vintage, while G.H.Mumm has declared it is "cautiously optimistic" now the grapes have been gathered and pressed.

Despite difficult weather earlier in the year, Perrier-Jouët's chef de cave, Hervé Deschamps, said he is "excited by the quality of the grapes, which are extremely healthy, with no botrytis and a very good ripeness for all three varieties".

According to Deschamps, careful vineyard management meant that the Perrier-Jouët vineyards were well protected against rot, mildew and oidium - "more so than other growers", he claimed.

"Good weather in August and the beginning of September helped the ripening process so that when we began picking on September 17 in Cramant and Avize some plots even produced potential alcohol of over 11% abv," he added.

The harvest took a week longer than last year, with the last vineyard picked in Mailly on October 3, and yields were down on last year generally in the region.

Chemical analysis of alcohol content, acidity and PH levels is "similar to the 2004 vintage", according to Deschamps, but he sounded a note of caution. "Until I begin tasting the still wines in December I prefer to reserve my overall judgement of the potential," he said.

For G.H.Mumm's chef de cave, Didier Mariotti, the overall quality of the grapes is "very high, in fact much higher than we dared to hope two or three months ago".

"They displayed a good level of maturity with an average of 10.4% potential alcohol. Acidity was also high - at around 7.6g/l on average. The diseases we witnessed earlier in the season such as mildew were largely overcome and the grapes were, in fact, mostly very healthy," he said.

Mariotti described this year's harvest as "gruelling", with severe frosts in April meaning G.H.Mumm had to reduce its yield forecasts.

"We resigned ourselves to the prospect of a smaller than average harvest, particularly compared to the last five years. However, we still hoped that the fruit would be of a high quality as much of the damage caused by the frost was localised.

"Cool and humid weather in June led to erratic flowering, resulting in coulure and millerandage. This was followed by attacks of downy mildew in July, which caused concern and also had a negative impact on the expected yield. Luckily the grapes were unharmed by grey rot and the sunny, windy weather that followed from the middle of August helped the ripening process.

"Veraison evolved rapidly across the G.H.Mumm vineyards in the first few weeks of September and by the time harvest started on September 17 there was a marked increase in bunch weight across all parcels."