NORTHERN RHÔNE - 2008 so far
CÔTE-RÔTIE: 6 weeks of mildew has meant a lot of work for the growers, with oïdium now a problem. The crop will be small, since the flowering was limited. Like most of the northern Rhône, there has so far been no hail at Côte-Rôtie. "It is hot now - 28°C, and the last 2 weeks have been around 20-28°C," reports Brigitte Roch of Domaine Clusel-Roch. "We are heading for a normal date of harvest, say 25-28 September. There was hail at Chavanay and Malleval at the end of June, affecting Condrieu and Saint-Joseph."
CROZES-HERMITAGE: growers have had to contend with mildew this year, as well as oïdium and coulure, or failed fruit formation after flowering. The flowering was late, and lasted over 3 weeks, a process that brought grapes of unequal ripening. "It is going to be a late year," comments Alain Graillot of Domaine Graillot, who also notes that at Larnage in the northern sector, there has been some insect, the cicadelle, problem. The veraison is just starting now, which is in line with many years: "a precocious veraison would be 25 July, and a late one 10 August," says Monsieur Graillot.
HERMITAGE: the heat came after 14 July - with rain and cool weather before then. "It is now stable, and if August is a good month, then we can have hopes," observes Bernard Faurie, known to be something of a worrier. "It could go quickly from now on - things have moved slowly so far, and we have had only a bit of mildew and oïdium. There has been some coulure (flowers failing to convert into grapes)." Monsieur Faurie reports that the vineyard state is more irregular at Saint-Joseph, referring to the southern sector of that appellation, notably Mauves and Tournon.
SOUTHERN RHÔNE - 2008 so far
CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE: mildew and coulure are words on growers` lips. May, June and early July were all tricky with cool, damp weather. By mid-July, the weather changed, became drier and the Mistral has blown from time to time. "We were very scared in early July, with the word "catastrophe" in mind, " comments Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes; "one of the big challenges has been the uneven number of bunches on the vines - some have 3, others have 10. We have cut back to 6 per bunch to try to normalise that. The earliest picking dates for us will be 10-15 September, and it won`t be a big crop. At least the vines are not suffering from drought - so the veraison, when they most need humidity, should pass off OK." Vincent also adds that the last vintage with so much mildew is said to be 1961! It was 36°C on 31 July.
Laurent Charvin of Domaine Charvin expects a mid-September harvesting date. "There was a lot of mildew, but that is stable now since it is very hot. Now we need a run of good weather, and the next 2 weeks are expected to be fine. We have also been helped by cool nights, down to 15°-20°C. The veraison is just starting now."
GIGONDAS & VACQUEYRAS: 10-15 days behind recent, often precocious, years. The crop will not be big. May and June were cold and rainy, with some mildew. The veraison is just starting now - the grapes taking their colour. The high, later ripening areas are heading for harvesting in early October, with the lower areas around 20-25 September. The weather was poor until mid-July. Since then, it has been hot, with day time temperatures of 30° to 35°C (86°F to 95°F or so), but cool nights of around 20°C (68°F). "There has been coulure or fruit formation failure on the Grenache, and we have had to drop some of the Grenache bunches," reports Gilles Faravel of Domaine de la Bouïssière; "the Mourvèdre is OK. There is less coulure at Vacqueyras."
CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE: the Vaucluse, left bank, département has fared better than the Gard, home to Saint-Gervais, Laudun and Chusclan. Mildew is the main culprit, with the Cèze Valley, around the town of Bagnols-sur-Cèze, particularly badly hit. Hail also struck Estézargues and Saint-Hilaire d`Ozilhan - the area east of Remoulins - in late June. "The trouble has not been vast amounts of rain, but its consistency," remarks Rémy Klein of Domaine de la Réméjeanne. "We had 250 mm (10 inches) in 2 months, which is not a lot, but 10 straight days of some rain in early June, for instance, poses a lot of problems." 2007 was a precocious year, and growers are running around 2 weeks behind that, or about 4 days behind a normal year. Most problems centre on the Grenache, with the Carignan slightly affected, but the other varieties in OK shape. A harvest date of 15 September or so beckons.
DOMAINE JEAN-LOUIS CHAVE WHITE HERMITAGE, 15 VINTAGES 2005-1984
Recently entered are 15 vintages of this remarkable white Hermitage. See The Big Tastings.
A FEW YOUNG GROWERS OF PROMISE AT CÔTE-RÔTIE & CONDRIEU
Recently entered are details on some of the domaines where younger growers are making their mark: Christophe Semaska, Xavier Gérard, Stéphane Pichat at Côte-Rôtie, and Domaine Mouton and Francois Merlin at Condrieu.