What does the 2012 vintage look like? If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question! But the truth is I really can’t answer until everything has been harvested and is in the winery. However, here are some observations about the harvest that is just beginning. We find ourselves at the end of a beautiful summer that gave us exceptional fruit (peaches, apricots and melons). Our grapes are in impeccable health, and the vineyards were given a welcomed respite of 40mm of rain on August 30th (here in Costieres de Nimes, “when it rains, it pours”), followed by a blessed Mistral. What more could we want?
The harsh winter (the end of February was still wickedly frigid) left its mark. The good news is that it was nature’s greatest pest-control (we’ve had very little to do). The not-so-good news is that it also generated a lot of heterogeneity during bud break, especially in the Grenache. Some buds started three weeks after the others; their clusters automatically had an equivalent delay in development. The wet spring replenished the water tables that were still low after a particularly dry winter. But rainfall during flowering generated shattering (when flowers can’t pollinate, they do not becomes grapes) and so most of the clusters are actually quite small and loose. Add to that the fact that the latecomers had better weather conditions and are now full and large, and the result is an increase in the heterogeneity observed during bud break. The result is that the natural load this year is irregular, both in quantity and maturity levels. So, green harvest was critical this year. In addition to controlling load in the younger vineyards, we had to eliminate clusters that were either too young or too compact throughout our parcels. This costly operation will be one of the keys in obtaining quality wines.
If you take a look at France’s weather map from the months of July and August, while the rest of the country was crouched under umbrellas, we in the south were basking in sunshine! As a result we got a double bonus: a very active photosynthesis and vineyards that are in excellent health, even through yields are substantially smaller than usual. The first maturity checks are showing record levels of color potential and we eagerly started our red grape harvest with the Syrah on September 10th.
As for winery, this year we’ve invested in a new cooling system that will allow us to hone our ability to preserve aromas for our whites and roses. The first juice in are just beginning to ferment and show a bright fruitiness and a nice balance on the palate. Keep your fingers crossed that the weather will hold out until the end of the harvest and that the vintage will be memorable.
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