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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Giles Fallowfield

The Champenois are meeting with the French minister of agriculture this week in an effort to gain permission to exceed the maximum permitted yield for the appellation of 13,000kg per hectare. After one of the wettest Augusts on record, the quality of the 2004 harvest has been turned around by good weather and almost no rain in September. With an abundance of quality, healthy grapes on the vines, the houses and growers alike want to be allowed to make more wine to compensate for the small harvest in 2003. Even before picking began in late September, the Comit Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) was predicting a potential yield of over 20,000 kilos per hectare. The growers and major houses represented by Patrick Le Brun, president of the Syndicat Gnral des Vignerons (SGV), and Yves Bnard, President of the Union des Maisons de Champagne (UMC), are asking to be allowed to gather an extra 1,000kg per hectare. Bnard, who describes the 2004 harvest as similar to 1982 in terms of both quality and quantity', thinks the minister will agree to their request. Then it will be up to the INAO to sanction this move when it meets in early November. It will decide whether we put this extra wine into our vats or if it goes for distillation,' said Bnard. We need to replenish our depleted stocks after the small harvest last year [2003] and we want to do this [pick extra grapes] because the quality is looking so good and the quantity is there. The weather forecast is good for the weekend and by the start of next week (4 October) we will have already gathered about two-thirds of the harvest.'