The 1961 yield averaged 7,800 kg/ha and totalled 280,000 205-litre pièces, exceeding the bumper target of 250,000 pièces for the third year running. This put total output for the years 1959-1961 at 900,000 pièces, confirming an upward trend in production that was attributed to improved vineyard practices such as soil and fertiliser inputs, more advanced spraying technologies and younger, more resistant vines.
Following a wet and fairly mild winter, the 1961 growing season kicked off early. The vines were bleeding sap by mid-February and bud break occurred in late March for the white grapes and early April for the other varieties. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir showed high yield potential, the Pinot Meunier rather less so. Spring then saw the vineyards hit by frost, the Aube being the worst affected on the nights of 28, 29 and 30 May. Full bloom, after a slow start, lasted barely a week (17-23 June depending on the variety) and many areas experienced poor fruit set due to the sudden arrival of hot dry weather in early June — just when moisture was critically needed for healthy growth. Chlorosis was another problem, particularly for producers in the Marne Valley. Ripening proceeded well all the same thanks to a hot and sunny August, followed by much-needed rain in September — ideal weather conditions that allowed the grapes to swell and resulted in a yield beyond all expectations.
The harvest began on 20 September, staggering the picking in certain vineyards to allow for the uneven ripening typical of this vintage. Good weather meanwhile accelerated the harvest while also preventing grey mould from taking hold. The grapes had an average potential alcohol content of 10.1% ABV with acidity of 6.5g/l H²SO4 — a low acidity that created an impression of roundness from the very first tasting.
The year 1961 was widely declared a vintage and marked increasing confidence in the industry’s ability to grow high-quality, high-yielding crops that are not subject to the whims of Mother Nature.
CIVC Bulletin Number 59, Fourth Quarter 1961
Analysis conducted by the AVC-CIVC technical and enological services