“Under scorching heat, the first half of August foreshadowed a particularly early harvest. The sugar fortification of the grapes skyrocketed and the acidity was reduced. The House thought of anticipating the harvest of its vineyard. Maturation monitoring, through the analysis and tasting of the
grapes, has been strengthened and brought closer together. Every day the team would visualize, perceive and feel the evolution of the grapes
from each Terroir and micro-Terroir of the Henriot vineyard.
From August 10, lots of discussions with winegrower partners took place, in order to share impressions and doubts and help each other in the choices relating to this particular harvest. Finally, a phenomenon of stagnation took place, requiring patience before declaring the harvest officially open. Was it water stress? Indeed, the drought that has been in place for 6 months could confirm it. However, no other signs visible, the foliage was beautiful, massive and the vine as a whole healthy.
The vines took the time to build the profile of the grapes. Heterogeneity has been the highlight this year. Heterogeneity between vintages, between grape varieties, between localities and even within the same plot, pushing
Maison Henriot to review its model of berry sampling and tasting. In fact, the berry tasting in the dining room has been abandoned. Indeed, the apprehension of the vines and the 2020 grapes required a presence «in the
field» in order to use every clue provided by the vine in the choice of harvest date. The three main parameters taken into consideration at the harvest by Maison Henriot, sugar, acidity and aromatics, did not agree on the date for the beginning of the harvest. A frequent issue! Sometimes a declining perception of acidity, a potential degree in the target but an absent aroma, or optimal acidity and aroma but a need for additional sugar enrichment. In short, all possible patterns have been found. As the skins of the grapes became thicker and the grape seed dressing specific to each case, the definition of maturity was more delicate than usual. In fact, it was the feeling that largely determined the harvest decisions this year.
No room for modeling.
2020 is the year for setting up pre-harvest plot tours with Henriot partner winegrowers. This moment of visiting the vineyard, discovering the Terroirs, tasting the grapes, sharing and talking about the choice of harvest kick off and the organoleptic requirements of Maison Henriot, was particularly auspicious in this context. 106 vineyard plots were visited by the Cellar Master of Maison Henriot on 26 different vintages, to meet partner winegrowers, with a true collective mindset and a vision of excellence.
The first cuts for Henriot began in Montgueux, at a partner winemaker on Friday August 21. Then the harvest continued in Trois-Puits, Vaudemange,
Villers-Marmery, Sézanne, Damery, Verzenay …
On the Maison Henriot vineyard, the harvest began on Monday, August 24, with grapes from Ay, Pisse-Loup and Brise Pot, for the red wine making
used in the House’s future rosé blends. Then, it continued in Chouilly, Epernay and Avenay, to finish on Wednesday September 2 (and Friday September 4 for our partners).
The rules were reversed for this harvest. The Côte des Blancs which begins after the Montagne de Reims, Chardonnays which are slow to ripen, early Meuniers and upset picking circuits. The sanitary condition was perfect, as were the weather conditions. Mood was good.
The picking was smooth, the presses were not clogged. Yields lower than expected, due to scalding and decuiding, especially on the Pinots, may have been the source of this feeling of fluidity.
Those involved in the harvest have discovered a new way of working, with distancing and other good health practices. The link was kept differently, by regular calls, more recurring visits although short and wearing the mask.
In terms of expression and vintage quality, Maison Henriot is eager to discover the base wines. It is not easy to make judgment so far, although there is enthusiasm.
All the grape varieties presented the characteristics sought by the House and the cherished Chardonnays to Maison Henriot look very promising. This year was the year of the Terroirs according to Maison Henriot. In fact, the usual heterogeneity of Terroir expressions was amplified during this harvest.
A key outcome of this 2020 harvest for Maison Henriot is the great need for observation in the vineyard in order to harvest grapes
that meet its requirements and that highlight the Terroirs, as Apolline, founder of Maison Henriot in 1808, wanted.