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VENDANGES 2022 in Champagne

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8 questions for Christelle Rinville, Vineyard Manager Taittinger

The 2022 harvest was an exceptional year for Champagne, both in terms of quality - with ripe fruit - and quantity.

Christelle Rinville, Vineyard Manager at Taittinger, tells us more about the year's harvest and pressing activity.

What explains the exceptional quality of this year's grapes?

This can be explained by the year's particular climatic conditions: sunshine (whatever the month of the year, the number of hours of daily sunshine was higher than the monthly norms - in July in particular) and little rain. The vines were able to withstand the spring frosts (8% loss on average in the Champagne region versus 30% in 2021, and more specifically for us, in our Essoyes and Sézanne vineyards); above all, they coped perfectly with the hot weather in July and August. Despite numerous days above 40°C, scald damage (sunburned grapes) remained limited. Foliage remained green throughout the campaign, with relatively limited growth due to the heat.

This can be explained by the year's particular climatic conditions: sunshine (whatever the month of the year, the number of hours of daily sunshine was higher than the monthly norms - in July in particular) and little rain. The vines were able to withstand the spring frosts (8% loss on average in the Champagne region versus 30% in 2021, and more specifically for us, in our Essoyes and Sézanne vineyards); above all, they coped perfectly with the hot weather in July and August. Despite numerous days above 40°C, scald damage (sunburned grapes) remained limited. Foliage remained green throughout the campaign, with relatively limited growth due to the heat.

How will grapes with these characteristics positively affect wine quality?

As long as the viticultural year has been favorable and the vines have withstood the heat and drought well, and the harvest dates have allowed us to pick the healthiest grapes possible with excellent aromatic expression, everything is in perfect harmony. The grapes will express the terroir to the full because the vine will have been in balance all year, using its root system to draw all the mineral elements and amino acids from the soil.

Each cru corresponds to a color in the painter's palette, and it's up to the chef de caves to choose the blends, i.e. the best colors for his painting. Alexandre Ponnavoy, our cellar master, believes that beautiful colors and qualitatively varied choices augur well for the future.

At this stage, can we say that the grapes will make a vintage?

We decide which year to taste the clear wines. In my career as an agronomist, this is technically the best harvest I've ever seen. There are no damaged parts: the quality of the harvest, of the bunches, of the berries is excellent on all levels, whether sugar/acidity, aroma or visual character.

How many people are at Taittinger during the harvest?

The number of permanent full-time vineyard workers is 70, reinforced by seasonal contracts for pruning, tying and lifting and baling. At that time, we employ 100-115 people. And at harvest time, the number of employees rises to well over 800 (mainly pickers, but also the people who transport the grapes to the presses, and the people at the presses responsible for weighing, tipping the crates, cleaning the crates, organizing the pomace, pressing and vatting)

Once the grapes have been harvested, can you tell us about the transformation process they undergo?

Close coordination between the vineyard teams and our in-house oenologists is essential! Every day, tankers collect the must from the various pressing centers and transport it to our winery in Reims. Under the authority of the cellar master, these juices are then directed to the different vats according to their origin, cru, grape variety....

Taittinger has three wine presses. Which estates do they correspond to?

These three presses represent the three main axes of our work. In Pierry, at Château de la Marquetterie, we press grapes from the Hautvillers region to Sézanne, via the Épernay (Pierry, Moussy, Vinay, Chavot) and Côte des Blancs regions. We pressed around 110 hectares of vines and also received grapes from the delivery man.

On the Montagne de Reims, we crush grapes from Murigny, Rilly and all the Grands Crus: Mailly, Verzenay and Ambonnay and Trépail. Rilly-la-Montagne crushes 100 hectares.

Our third press is located in Loches-sur-Ources, where we press grapes from the Côte des Bars, mainly Loches and Essoyes, from around 90 hectares.

We press all grape varieties on the press: Grands Crus, Premiers Crus and others.

How many brands are pressed on different presses every day?

Typically, we are between 8 and 12 marks a day at peak times. One mark is equivalent to 8,000 kilograms.

Now that the harvest is over, what are the next big steps for you as vineyard manager?

When it's over, I have a lot of administrative work to do.

During the harvest: it's mainly observation, quality control, monitoring, anticipating needs, supporting the press managers... Then, I have to make the payments for the harvest, for the rentals made during the harvest. The administrative work then begins: harvest declaration (CIVC), overall assessment of our harvests by crus and grape variety. We then have to take stock of the situation as a whole, to try and assess what can be improved on the spot, in order to make progress in all areas.

Photos: Gildas Boclé