So, what’s been going on in Champagne these past few weeks?
Well you might think that the answer is ‘Not a lot’ but that’s not strictly true
Be careful what you do in the vineyards
Work in the vineyards is still going on particularly the planting of new vines which is a critical job at this time of year, although a whole raft of regulations has been issued about ‘social distancing. Fortunately, that’s easier in the open air where there is plenty of space, than in the winery or offices.
Still on the subject of the vineyards, the buds have burst already – at least two weeks earlier than normal. This could be problematic if we get a spell of cold weather and early morning frost which, past experience suggests, is highly likely in the next few weeks.
Be careful what you say on social media
You may also have heard of the debacle that occurred at Champagne Deutz: the son of the president of the company went on social media and accused the Chinese of starting the whole corona virus crisis and demanding that Chinese goods be boycotted and other similar suggestions. The backlash in China was immediate and just as vehement as you might imagine and it was a boycott of Champagne Deutz that they were demanding.
Such was the furore that the president of Deutz had to issue a formal apology to calm the situation. It remains to be seen how effective this will be.
Some good news amongst all the gloom
The UK has not been a great market for champagne over the past few years and the market lost the No.1 in value export market status it had held for many years, however things may not be as bad as they seem, even in the current crisis. The president of the Champagne Agents’ Association reports that although shipment volumes increased by only 0.8% in 2019, the value increased by 6.2% to a total value of €431,000.
It’s high-end champagnes that are driving this growth and what’s more, the same trend continued in the first two months of 2020. As for the next few months, all bets are off for the time being.
Recognition for Ratafia
Finally, some news about something that you may not know much about.
Ratafia has finally been recognised as a product of the Champagne region.
What is ratafia? It’s made from the excess juice taken from the press at harvest time to which is added eau-de-vie champenois; this prevents the grape juice from fermenting and adds alcohol to produce a fortified drink of about 18 % abv
It’s quite sweet, very easy to drink and has quite a kick to it. Almost all champagne makers produce a ratafia and you’ll have no difficulty finding it when next you visit Champagne.
Concerted efforts are now afoot to promote ratafia more widely. Here's a short video about the ratafia made by Champagne Moussé Fils
Let’s hope for more good news in April, but that remans a hope rather than an expectation.
Until then, stay healthy