growers tell me that they are satisfied with the state of the vineyard so far this year, but there is no doubt that the threat of mildew lurks in the back of their minds. "It has been a battle this year," said ALAIN GRAILLOT, the supreme vigneron at CROZES-HERMITAGE: "as we are organic, we can treat with sulphur and copper only, and you have to have done at least one treatment this year to be in the clear. It demands being in the vineyard to spot any telltale signs, so it requires people and wits to keep on top of the situation.
In the SOUTHERN RHÔNE, JEAN-PIERRE MEFFRE of the excellent DOMAINE SAINT GAYAN remarked on a feature of the year so far across the Rhône - the spotty nature of the flowering: "in 2011 flowering happened in one week; this year it has run over three to four weeks. There was a lot of rain at flowering, and it was essential to treat the vines - if not, you have mildew. What we need now is heat, and some Mistral wind wouldn`t hurt if we are to knock any possible midlew on the head."
Sales of the 2010 have been excellent according to merchants who import Rhône wines to Britain, Scandinavia and the USA. The main problem is the lack of wine given the low yields of 2010. I am enthusiastic about the generous drinking qualities of the 2011s, both in red and white, and view this current vintage as ideal for the Restaurant and bar trade. Their southern ripeness comes in a well-fashioned style this year, looser and freer than any recent vintage. As an example, the 2011 CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE CHAR A VIN RED of DOMAINE DES COTEAUX DES TRAVERS at RASTEAU serves as an excellent, genuine version - very drinkable now, with local feel in the wine. I suggest subscribers use the Search engine for 2011 notes - start at **(*) and upwards.
the growing season is taking off now, with flowering on the go in the Southern Rhône. Temperatures have been creeping up, but rain has come in handy bursts in the second half of May, helping the lacklustre reserves of the vineyards. However, drama has struck in Provence - in late May the central Var departement, based around Brignoles and the Issole river, was ravaged by a ferocious hail storm, which left banks of snow along the Autoroute to Nice, and, worse still, thousands of hectares of vineyards devastated. Growers spoke of hail stones the size of apples. The 2012 vintage is severely reduced as a result, and because of the force of the stones on the vine woods and next year`s shoots, it is likely that 2013 has also been cut back. The line between "good rain" and "bad rain" can be a very fine one. The area is seeking government aid after this catastrophe.
In Britain, events are lively with widespread celebrations to mark Queen Elizabeth II`s 60 years on the throne. She stood in cold rain for over 4 hours on Sunday 3 June admiring the flotilla of boats including friends of mine who were rowing down the Thames in London, and showed her great stamina in the process (she is 86 now). As a link to the Rhône, I think the GUIGAL family should be pleased at her naming of her steeplechaser HARVEST SONG (she always takes enormous trouble over the naming of her racehorses, the art being to link both sides of the pedigree). Harvest Song`s sire was Sadler`s Wells, and his dam La Mouline. Yo, Marcel!