First the good news: There will be no shortage of champagne for your New Year’s Eve celebrations. The bad news? The toast you make to ring in 2016 may be in jeopardy.
“This year has been unprecedented,” said Dominique Moncomble, director of technical services at the regulatory authority Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), told The Telegraph. “We have been accumulating problems: we are battling the elements and disease.” The region’s famed vineyards were ravaged by frost, hailstorms, wet weather, and disease this year, causing a dramatic 40% decrease in the annual harvest. “This is the lowest harvest in at least 40 years,” the Agriculture Ministry said while releasing the figures on Nov. 9, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
Luckily, vintners are well prepared for such a crisis. “We built up reserves during the years when we had big harvests, which helps us deal with the caprices of nature,” Thibaut le Mailloux, a spokesman for the French champagne producers association, told the magazine. Champagne takes at least 15 months to age and is often made by combining grapes from various different vintages, so the long term effect of this year’s shortage isn’t expected to be too drastic. In fact, producers have at least a three-year supply of grapes in reserve, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.
The grapes used to make Champagne are not the only varietals in jeopardy. All over Europe, crops have been ravaged this year, causing a 20 percent decline in the total French grape harvest, including those in the well-known wine-producing regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux. Yields are also down in Italy and England.
What’s legally defined as “Champagne” comes from a specific 84,000-acre region in northeast France; everything else, technically, is just sparkling wine. An 80-year-old French law carefully maps where the grapes — pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay — can be grown. As for the quality of this year’s vintage, the Champagne board told The Telegraph that it was “not yet compromised.”
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