Champagne Harvest to Start at Earliest Since 1822 on Dry Weather

The champagne harvest this year is set to start on Aug. 20, its earliest debut in 189 years, as dry weather in France hastens the ripening of grapes.

The only other time the harvest began this early was in 1822, the Comite interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne, a national association of champagne makers, said in an e-mailed statement.

“After an unseasonably severe winter and a spring that was more like summer, the vineyard calendar has been moved forward,” the group said. “The dry weather up to now has kept parasites and diseases at bay, the bunches of grapes are in excellent condition.”

The association said in March that more than 319 million bottles of champagne were sold in 196 countries in 2010 for 4.11 billion euros ($5.89 billion), as the market rebounded after a two-year slump.

France had its second-hottest April since 1900 this year and also one of the driest springs in half a century, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Rain in June was only slightly above normal.

“This is the first time that Champagne has seen the combination of a significant lack of rain during the spring, strong sunshine and an exceptionally early blossoming,” the association said.

Champagne Region

The home market remains the biggest for the drink, followed by the U.K., the U.S., Germany and Belgium.

Champagne is produced exclusively within the Champagne region in France, about 80 miles northeast of Paris. The grapes used in the production of the drink are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.

Paris-based LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, which owns champagne brands such as Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon and Dom Perignon, is the world’s biggest champagne merchant.

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