Yields in 1973 totalled 768,000 205-litre pièces, making this the second largest harvest of the century after the record breaking 1970 harvest (800,000 pièces). Productivity exceeded the industry’s already generous forecasts and the quality of the grapes was highly satisfactory though not worthy of superlatives. Musts with an average ABV of 9-10% and a respectable acidity of 7.5g/l H²SO4 promised well-structured Champagne wines with a bright future.
This was by any standard a bountiful harvest, and a particular triumph considering the low expectations at the outset. The vines were said to have depleted their energy reserves generating the sizeable 1972 yield (9,000 kg/ha), in a year of cool, dry weather not conducive to such high productivity. As it turned out, the 1973 season got off to a promising start: good overall rate of bud break; no frosty mornings in May; and exceptionally fine June weather, just as the vines were coming into bloom — a critical time in the vineyard. Plantings then continued to prosper despite a long stretch of hot, dry weather, with not a single drop of rain from June to mid-September. Cluster weight increased regardless of the drought, which finally broke on 18 September with the arrival of heavy rains that caused the berries to swell quite dramatically.
By harvest time, crop estimates exceeded forecasts by 15-20% — proof that the improvements in vineyard technology over the past 12 years had paid off. Though grape quality fell slightly short of expectations, it was a very respectable performance for heat-stressed and especially drought-stressed vines. But there was no getting around the fact that they suffered from too much heat and not enough water — or rather too much water too late.
Picking commenced on 28 September, helped by the welcome return of the sun a few days later that prevented the now fully ripe grapes from spoiling. All the signs pointed to an excellent vintage that would be drinking well for many years to come.
CIVC Bulletin Number 107, Fourth Quarter 1973
Analysis conducted by the AVC-CIVC technical and oenological services