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First Frost in Champagne

Well when I visited Epernay at the very end of October, Green at the top and brown at the bottom?! Several producers commented on my excellent timing as I was caught in those few days when it was possible to see every colour of leaf on the vineyards. I agreed how spectacular the whole area looked – like a giant patchwork quilt. On closer inspection, I was also muddled – why were the browner leaves at the lower levels and the greener ones further up the hills when surely it should be the other way round?



The answer – which does seem like reverse logic – is that the frost hits the valleys first while the vineyards higher up are more protected. The leaves certainly confirmed this explanation. Imagine the effect this has all year round on the individual vineyards – whether rain or sun, snow or frost. So there it is: many factors contribute to the magical terroir and they all go to determining how and why particular grapes develop as they do. Plenty of fruit left on the vines this year...Of course, with champagne the blending process (of grapes and years) is intended to iron out these vagaries, but it still helps to understand all the components of quality. This is what Herve hopes to achieve with his focus on vineyard quality at Ayala.


Due to medicinal imposition, the enforced break from champagne has been most unwelcome; bring on that cold weather and soon!