Two serious domaines, worthy of full attention - note the contrast in scale: the 42 hectare Côtes du Rhône Château de Montfaucon beside the Rhône near Hannibal`s point of crossing at Roquemaure and the more than double that size Château de Beaucastel at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Montfaucon is improving all the while, while at Beaucastel the 2008s, 2007s and the 2006 red were checked in June 2010. The excellent Perrin & Fils range has also been reviewed, taking in the 2007s that are now all bottled, and some of the 2008s. See Perrin & Fils under Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
To follow: after June 2010 visits.
Creased faces, a few yawns here and there, knocking over the odd glass of water when eating - yes it`s harvest and vinification time, the growers at full stretch. 2010`s crop is reduced, but people are happy with the quality. In the Southern Rhône, Gigondas is still harvesting under stable weather in the week of October 11, while Châteauneuf-du-Pape has largely finished, except for strong waiters like Château Rayas, whose bunches are magnificent on their south-west, sun-setting vineyard near the cellars. Vacqueyrashas finished as well. Fermentations have gone well, too.
From Gigondas, Dominique Ay of Domaine Raspail-Ay: "The crop hasn`t been big; the mountain people are better off than those lower down - they had less coulure since their flowering came in the warmer weather. It`s taken time for the crop to be ripe. My average degree is 14.2°. It will be a year of under 30 hl/ha, like 2009. Colours are good on the Grenache and on the Syrah."
From Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Bruno Le Roy, Château Fortia: "very well coloured and structured wines in 2010, not a big crop - less than 2009. We have very handsome Syrah this year - the Grenache, too, which is more coloured than the 2009. Fermentation went off well, with less degree than 2007, and more balanced wines. The freshness and acidity are good, too, for both reds and whites. The key in 2010 was that we didn`t have the excess of heat as we did in previous years. The nights were cool at under 20°C, which helped the colour levels. We started the red crop on 13 September. The early September rain was helpful - the first fall ran off quickly, maybe around 90 mm (3.6 in), but the second fall of around 60 mm (2.2 in) was absorbed, and unblocked the ripening. I think there was a bit more rain in the south than in the north of the appellation. But the rain was not wild, there was no hail, and it didn`t hurt the plants."
From Vacqueyras, Jean-Michel Vache of Le Clos des Cazaux: "we are 20% down on yield this year - the reason being the 80 days we went without rain. We also lost 20% in 2009. Some people have lost 40% this year. There was less crop than at Gigondas, because the flowering at Vacqueyras came during the cool weather, the Gigondas was later, and coincided with warmer temperatures and less wind."
Corinne Jamet, wife of Jean-Paul at Domaine Jamet, Côte-Rôtie: we will take three days this week of October 11 to finish the last 5 of our 13 hectares - 12 to 14 October. The crop is very healthy, but ripening has been slow on skins, stems and pips. In the first week of October the team was harvesting in T-shirts and shorts, with over 30° C in the vineyards. Sunday 10 October was 26-27°C, but this week will be 17-19°C, with a helpful North Wind. Quantity is very reasonable."
From Hermitage, Bernard Faurie reports: "I am happy. The 2010 crop hasn`t been big, but it was very healthy, and colour and degrees are good. The quantity is down on last year, maybe a loss of 30%. I think that is because the vines gave a good yield in last year`s drought, and so were tired this year. The slope vines have been more affected than the plain level ones. I picked my white Hermitage on 17 September, with degree of over 14°, and my Syrah on 22 September, before some rain, with a degree of nearly 14°, which will fall a little once vinified."
From Cornas, Pierre Clape of Domaine Clape: "2010 is a very pretty vintage. Degrees were between 14° and 14.5°, but the 60mm (2.2 in) rainstorm around 6-7 September helped to stabilise the degree at that, not higher. In truth, so dry has it been that 2 days after that rain you wouldn`t have known that anything had fallen, so thirsty were the vineyards. The wines are a bit more fresh than the 2009s, and are on less on over-ripeness than the 2009s. The structure is good, and in barrel they taste very much on the fruit. Our yield will be around 32-33 hl/ha, against 35 hl/ha in 2009; we have had some coulure, and on the young vines I have noticed both small bunches and small berries. We started 17 September, and finished the Cornas on 23 September, our vin de table on 25 September. Fermentations have gone smoothly, with the help of cool mornings and warm afternoons, up to 30-31°C this year. The wines are quite robust in tannins - for example our lower areas on Mazards and Pied la Vigne have the same tannin level as La Côte higher up with its old vines. I would say that 2010 is more fresh than 2009, a bit less concentrated. 2009 can lean towards 2003. 2010 is quite classic, a beau vintage."