2017 will remain on record as the smallest harvest in France since World War II. A combination of factors including freezing, hail, shattering and drought severely limited production in France, and across Italy and Spain. For the first time in a very long time, world wine production will be significantly lower than consumption (I am writing this as Sonoma & Napa are fighting nothing less than apocalyptic fires and Paso is facing frost during harvest!).
Here we had no freezing, a little hail, a lot of shattering on the Grenache, and a very dry growing season which has given us an early vintage, small in quantity but exceptional in quality.
After a cold month of January, which is much needed for the vegetative rest, but the end of winter came as early as mid-February. Two weeks later we were seeing almond and peach blossoms and bud-break started around mid-March (a good 15 days ahead of a normal year). Winter lacked precipitation, but regular spring rains allowed a buoyant start to canopy growth. From mid-May summer arrived with temperatures regularly above 25°C and even exceeding 35°C as of mid-June. The harvest predictions looked earlier and earlier and the cloudbursts of June were most welcomed.
The vines established full canopy that was favorable for active photosynthesis and the dry conditions that continued well through the end of the harvest, allowed exceptional healthy growing conditions.
We started harvest on August 15th (a record) with our Viognier at Bech (Vauvert) and continued picking for our rosés in order to relieve our younger vineyards that had suffered from the drought. All the rosés and the majority of the whites came in before the end of August (another record for us) with beautiful balance, fresh aromatics and a very nice tension.
We decided to keep our cool and waited for the reds, despite already higher than expected levels of potential alcohol, because we found the aromatics a bit vegetal and the skins a bit astringent and bitter. I sincerely believe that this was the right option. From the first days of September the nights cooled down steadily, falling below 12°C (8°C on September 19th), slowing the vines’ dehydration, favoring the coloration of berries and allowing the development of an exceptional fruit without significant increases in potential alcohol. We finished the harvest on September 29th, just one week before our usual dates.
The result is impressive. If last year I swore that 2016 was for me the best vintage of my career, my sense is that 2017 might just be even better. All the grape varieties succeeded: intense color, beautifully fresh fruit, ample mouthfeel, and fine grained tannins — all with a resolutely hedonistic signature. Ample consolation for a tiny harvest…
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