Harvests of yesterday


1985 was a year during which particularly noteworthy hard frosts in January and February seriously affected and severely damaged the vines. Thereafter, the situation didn’t improve as frosty conditions struck again in spring, negatively impacting the growth of the new buds. Thankfully, the situation did improve at the beginning of summer, and the flowering phase proceeded swiftly. August was a relatively chilly month but this didn’t adversely affect the grapes. The good weather in September lifted spirits amongst the inhabitants of the Champagne region. When the time came to begin the harvest, the grapes were in perfect overall condition. The harvest began on the 30th of September and was completed promptly.


The climate was favourable for sustaining a good harvest of high quality worthy of the 1995 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs. These lively, well-structured wines have a good acidity which means that they keep well. The Chardonnays are eulogistic and the complex black grape varieties exhibit an interesting typicality.


Although the seasons were very changeable, it was with some surprise that grapes of remarkable quality and with exceptional characteristics were harvested. We have to go back to 1928 to find a potential alcohol-acidity combination of this level and of this quality. Given the historical reputation of this year, there is every hope that 1996 will be an outstanding vintage


The harvest began in the rain of mid-September, but the sun soon returned to save a bumper harvest and guarantee good maturity. The alcohol-acidity combination is original and rates among those of the best harvests. First tasting emphasizes straightforward, distinct and clean wines.


1999 saw above-average annual temperatures. The harvest began in sunny conditions but was later dogged by persistent rain. The alcohol-acidity combination is quite atypical and the wines of the 1999 harvest are clean, clear-tasting and mature: the Chardonnay grapes exhibit the floral characteristics of the great vintages and the Pinot Noir grapes, both delicate and well-structured, are dominated by red-fruit flavours. The 1999 vintage could be likened to the 1982 or 1988 vintages.


Weather conditions in 2000 were normal, although average temperatures were higher than in 1999. Shortly before the harvest, a large proportion of the grapes had yet to ripen and there was very persistent rain. Fortunately, sunny conditions returned and in the end the grapes ripened quickly, reaching an unexpected level of maturity by the beginning of September. The first tastings reveal well-balanced wines with splendid homogeneity: the Chardonnay grapes are floral with a full, complex structure while the Pinot Noir grapes are well-structured and rich, with red fruit flavours: there is no question as to the quality of this vintage.


2002 saw very low levels of rainfall. The winter was mild despite a few hard frosts which did not affect the vines and by spring the plants were thriving. Few spring frosts to report. The plants flowered quickly and very well. After a good harvest, there is no doubt that 2002 is an excellent vintage. The first tastings reveal well-rounded, supple, open, mature wines. The Chardonnay grapes are long, smooth and very aromatic with floral or fruity overtones, depending on the vineyard. The Pinot Noir grapes are full-bodied, ample and rich, with red fruit flavours.


The climate in 2003 was quite particular. First, spring frost and hail storms reduced the numbers of grapes, while the summer heatwave forced an early start to the harvest. The musts produced in 2003 were at both ends of extreme: while the natural sugar content was very high, total acidity was exceptionally low. The first tastings revealed some pleasant surprises: the Chardonnays, which yielded the smallest quantities, were uncharacteristic. The nose was concentrated, aromatic and very fruity with frequent notes of ripe pear. The palate was rich, round and especially smooth with flavours of fruit in syrup. The Pinot Noirs, however, delivered a mature and very intense aroma dominated by dried fruits, while the palate was powerful, round and full-bodied conjuring up the sweetness of fig. Pleasant and ready to be enjoyed quickly, the 2003 wines also have excellent ageing potential.


Despite its unremarkable weather conditions, 2004 is an exuberant vintage. Although the winter was chilly, there was no period of intense cold. The very pleasant spring had low rainfall. The flowering period was long and began in mid-June, when the weather was cool. The summer was cool also, with weak sunshine, and was dry until mid-August when a beneficial period of rain began. The return of the sun and heat at the beginning of September favoured ripening. The grape harvest, which began with the Chardonnays on September 20th, proved to be one of the most abundant in Champagne’s history. It was very sound and of excellent quality. The Chardonnays are of remarkable quality: balanced, complex, long, fresh and invigorating. The Pinot Noirs are elegant and structured.