The 1979 harvest met all expectations in terms of quantity and quality but was not enough to compensate fully for the shortfall following the near-disastrous 1978 vintage.
With a total yield of 845,000-205 litres pièces the 1979 harvest was the largest in Champagne history. However, the surplus in production (40 million bottles) was scarcely sufficient to replenish half of the reserve stocks used to make good the previous year’s shortfall of 100 million bottles. That would depend on two good vintages in a row, particularly if the upward sales trend continued (3.7% growth in the period 1978/1979).
This year’s yield was notable for combining quantity with quality. The new and widespread use of effective treatments greatly reduced the risk of rot and the health of the grapes was excellent. Other key factors were an exceptional bud break (particularly among the Chardonnay plantings), followed by a steady, albeit protracted flowering with practically no incidence of coulure. Last but not least, the 1979 growing season saw no extreme weather and enjoyed an Indian summer marked by alternating sun and rain. Following the harvest, Champagne Growers and Houses and CIVC representatives agreed to set up a three-year programme of plantings.
Picking began on 3 October, about two weeks later than usual, starting with the most precocious parcels then continuing on a staggered basis until 9/10 October. The most productive grapevine was the Chardonnay, followed by the Pinot Noir then the Pinot Meunier. All of the parcels produced ripe, plump clusters of grapes with fine skins - proving that even a late harvest can deliver perfectly ripe fruit. Yield was 10,800kg/hectare (the highest ever recorded in Champagne) with excellent sugar and acid levels (9.2% ABV and 8.8 g/l H 2SO4 average acidity).
In sum, 1979 was an outstanding year in Champagne, deemed worthy to be declared a vintage.
CIVC Bulletin 2004 n°131 (fourth quarter)
Analysis conducted by AVC-CIVC technical and enological services.