The drought has hit areas such as CÔTE-RÔTIE and CONDRIEU, the vineyard taking a hit two years running. Hence there is an unbalanced ripening for the VIOGNIER at CONDRIEU, while the SYRAH is presenting different levels of ripening even within a single plot. However, the mildew attacks have been less deplorable than those of the SOUTHERN RHÔNE, since domaines have the equipment to spray while walking through the vines with a backpack. At CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, as NORTHERN growers have pointed out, they couldn’t get their tractors into the soggy vineyards to treat the vines, and had no second option.
YVES GANGLOFF: “it’s been so hot here, and rain that we needed hasn’t come. The last rain of consequence was 15 mm [0.6 in] in the first week of August. Only five miles down the road at CHAVANAY, for their CONDRIEU and SAINT-JOSEPH, they had the right cloud over them that day, and received 50 mm [2 in]. So that was frustrating. Degree is high on the VIOGNIER, 14° to 14.5°, but you have the case where the vine next door, a bit less in the sun, for instance, has VIOGNIER at only 10° to 11°.
The concentration in the grapes this year is through the drought rather than the ripening process, so there are dehydrated grapes in play – they may have 14°, but aren’t ripe. We’ve had to contend with this sort of challenge off and on over the last 10 years, but 2018 follows 2017, making two very hot and dry years in succession. 2017 was helped by having the more temperate and rainy 2016 preceding it. At CÔTE-RÔTIE, the southern areas of TUPIN with shallow soil terraces and granite have resisted the drought less well than the schist vines of the northern sector. I will start the harvest gently next week, from 10 September.”
GUILLAUME GILLES: “I start my harvest tomorrow, 4 September. The CLAPES and THIÉRRY ALLEMAND were harvesting today. I am stunned, really, since the juice in the grapes is very coloured and very aromatic. The SYRAH degree was 13° last week, with acidities not very high. The grapes aren’t very big, their size irregular. There has been some drought on CHAILLOT. Mildew may have meant a loss of 5%, but the real crop loser this year was the combination of a lack of juice from the drought, the high heat, and a budding that wasn’t very abundant. Over at SAINT-PÉRAY, quality and quantity both seem good for their whites.”
JEAN-MICHEL GÉRIN: “2018 continues the run of years since 2009 where we have harvested a precocious crop, around the first week of September, with few exceptions, just 2016, really. We are starting our CÔTE-RÔTIE on 6 September, with the SYRAH on LES GRANDES PLACES at 13.9°, and on VIALLIÈRE at 13.6°. The pips are very, very ripe, and the analysis shows the polyphenols - tannins – have extremely high potential. There are well developed aromatics given the ripeness of the crop. We aren’t yet at the stage where the grapes lose weight, so things are stable for now. The CÔTE-RÔTIE SYNDICAT has asked for a yield of 44 hl/ha this year. At CONDRIEU, we are further behind, with VIOGNIER on LA MALADIÈRE at 12.5°, so we will be harvesting that on 10 September. The SYNDICAT at CONDRIEU has requested a yield of 46 hl/ha. If I achieve 40 hl/ha, I will be happy.”
MAXIME GRAILLOT: “I harvested my white CROZES crop last week, 47 hl/ha, and very happy with that because some freshness was retained. The fermentations are going along nicely now. Our SYRAH today is at 13° to 14.2°. and we are starting to harvest that on 5 September. Colour in the juice of the grapes is good, the weather is fine, and the yield is around 40 hl/ha, so it’s time to go.
2018 has a similar profile to 2017 – the temperature and weather of the summer and the harvest dates – the whites 28 August in 2017 and 29 August in 2018, the reds on 6-7 September in both years. The main difference is the slightly higher rainfall of 2018, with a very helpful 23 mm [0.96 in] in July. 2018 will join 2017 as a hyper charming vintage.
Over at CORNAS, the SYRAH [1960s] on LA CÔTE for the CORNAS equis is 13° to 13.2°, and the yield a maximum of 35 hl/ha; there’s been no stress there, while the SYRAH for the SAINT-JOSEPH equis from SAINT JEAN-DE-MUZOLS has suffered from drought on the slopes there, so the crop isn’t very big.”
JEAN GONON, DOMAINE GONON: “well, it’s been hot, very hot! Mildew surged forward in the second half of June, having lain low in incubation, even with fine and dry weather. The rain on 5 August or so was super after extreme heat up to 36°C in the shade of our courtyard in the preceding days, which meant we could only work in the mornings, so hot was it. There was a little August rain after that, so we were saved in effect, since there had been the start of blockage on the ripening. As it is, acidities are low. The SYRAH is a bit more balanced than the whites, where the ROUSSANNE is at 13° to 14°, the pH already at 3.6 – so we’re harvesting that soon. The SYRAH is around 13° and consistent across the vineyard, the fruit tasty, but the stems still green. We’ll harvest that towards 13-14 September. The 2018 yield is higher than 2017.”
The white grape harvest is under way across the SOUTHERN RHÔNE, with growers pointing to low acidity in their crop. The picture generally is overhung with the bleak reality of mildew having decimated certain domaines for the 2018 harvest. It’s been a case of missing out on one treatment, and suddenly the mildew was galloping away into the sunset. The result for some is virtually no crop.
Otherwise, the harvest quality is good across the red grapes, as growers wait for ripening to come together. From various appellations, here is the latest news.
ISABELLE DE MENTHON, CHÂTEAU REDORTIER: “well, the summer saw extremely high and uncomfortable heat, so the good rainfall of 80 mm [3.2 in] in August encouraged vegetation; the vines had been holding up well, anyway. Here up high at SUZETTE [350 metres] we don’t have large bunches, and they are well aired, so we have avoided the rot that appeared low down on the plain vineyards. Mildew has been severe across the region, with some domaines producing zero GRENACHE, and magnificent SYRAH, which will change the blends. It’s been a tough year for organic domaines with all the mildew. We are 10 days behind 2017, and will probably start the white harvest towards 25 September.”
DENIS ALARY, DOMAINE ALARY: “we were one of the few harvesting ROUSSANNE last week, also GRENACHE BLANC. Acidity isn’t very high, and their degree was 13.5° to 14°. We will be cutting the SYRAH from 10 September, the GRENACHE the week after. Mildew has reduced the harvest level; I would estimate a loss of 20% across the appellation. The 120 mm [4.8 in] of rain on 9 August came as the vineyards were starting to stress from the dry conditions; it was followed by days of MISTRAL wind, then good heat. That served to put back the harvest by a week, which was very beneficial. Even my VIN DE TABLE harvest is in good shape, with no rot. There’s rain coming in a few days, so we have to be vigilant.”
PATRICK BRUNEL, CHÂTEAU DE LA GARDINE: “we have survived the onslaught of the mildew, unlike some domaines in the COURTHÉZON [North-East] and also SORGUES [South-East] sectors. I have spoken to growers here and at RASTEAU who have virtually no crop, which is appallingly sad. If you missed out on just one treatment, you were stuffed. We had the luck to take the right decision on treating the vines. There was rain all through the month of May, with wind or MISTRAL NOIR following the rain, which impeded spraying, and was also rain bearing. The dramatic attack came at the end of May, early June, and life was very tricky for organic producers.
Our rain on 9 August was 100 mm [4 in]. The white harvest started to rot, and we had to work on the leaves. We have picked ROUSSANNE at 14°, and left rotted crop in the vineyards. The harvest is handsome, but I feel we have to act fast now. Our SYRAH is at 13°, the GRENACHE at 13° to 13.5°. Quality in our vineyard at RASTEAU is pretty good, though there are some domaines very badly hit by mildew there as well. The lest affected by mildew this year is our vineyard at LIRAC, across the river from here. We now have 10 hectares set up for irrigation there, and that was used especially in July, when the vines were really suffering. There has been some millerandage [shot berries] on the whites, but the SYRAH is good, and colours are dark on the reds.”
DÉLPHINE FARAUD, DOMAINE DU CAYRON: “the harvest is small, what with the rain all through May – falls of 60 mm (2.2 in] and 40 mm [1.6 in], and not much Mistral wind, leading to mildew. There had been coulure (flowers failing to convert into fruit) before that, the rain hitting the flowers. At present, our laboratory analysis states that there is a marked imbalance between the acidity, tannin and degree, and the grapes need to concentrate. The vintage profile is similar to 2017, though we are one week later this year. We look like starting the harvest on 20 September.”
GUY RICARD, DOMAINE LE COUROULU: “I harvested my VACQUEYRAS white last week; we were only two or three harvesting, SANG DES CAILLOUX one of them. Now I am on my VIN DE PAYS red grapes including MERLOT. I will start the VACQUEYRAS GRENACHE on 10 September. I have no complaints with my yield at 35 hl/ha, having avoided the worst damage from mildew. I did a lot of treatments against it, including two on Sundays, which I think tipped things in my favour. The GRENACHE is 13.5° to 13.8° now, and the vines look magnificent. The 100 mm of rain [4 in] on 9 August was crucial. Of course, it’s no surprise that acidities are catastrophic, the ROUSSANNE and GRENACHE BLANC on 2.95 Total Acidity, although their pH is OK. I expect next week to see most domaines harvesting.”