I sat down at my office today with a trio of vignerons from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Sophie Armenier of Domaine de Marcoux, François Giraud of Domaine Giraud and Didier Negron of Domaine Roger Sabon & Fils.
The weather was the first and foremost topic. It's been an exceedingly harsh winter in the southern Rhône Valley with atypical snowfall coupled with a fiercer than normal mistral, the bone-chilling wind that cuts through the valley. But despite the hardships of the winter, the vineyards are actually drawing a benefit. The colder than normal temperatures allowed the vines to have a long dormant period, and the snowfall will result in additional water reserves for the coming growing season.
“The snow recharges the vines,” Giraud said, noting that it tends to boost the nitrogen levels in the soil as well.
This winter may yield another benefit down the road. The past two vintages, 2008 and 2009, both had very low yields, but a cold, snowy winter will leave behind ample water reserves. That may help produce a larger crop the coming season.
“The vines may naturally give more this coming year, assuming everything else works well from spring through summer,” says Negron. Negron, 38, has been at the domaine since 2001 and has recently taken over the winemaking from his always-charming father-in-law, Jean-Jacques Sabon.
Having a normal or large crop would please vintners in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and the southern Rhône in general. Yields were low in 2008 because of the severe selection most producers had to make on their crops. The flowering was irregular early on, and rot was an issue later in the season.
The 2009 vintage was a different story, but similar result. The growing season was warm and dry, which resulted in very low yields once again, with an average of just 29 hectoliters per hectare across the appellation, according to Armenier. “And at Marcoux they were just 18 hectoliter per hectare,” Armenier added. “But the yields were naturally low, rather than forced by selection.”
As for the 2009 vintage, the growers are happy. They put the vintage a step behind 2005 and 2007, noting its tannin-driven style. “The wines are very structured, but still very fresh,” said Giraud, who explained that yields at his domaine were also under 20 hectoliter per hectare in ‘09. “They are a touch more rustic than ’05.”
[You can now follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/jmolesworth1]
Jason Carey — willow, ny usa — March 6, 2010 3:27pm ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — March 6, 2010 4:31pm ET
Ann Suchta — Wimington, Delaware — March 8, 2010 8:07am ET
Johnny Espinoza Esquivel — Wine World — March 8, 2010 1:10pm ET
Jim Mason — St. John's — March 8, 2010 7:11pm ET
Henrik Scholdstrom — Stockholm — April 7, 2010 10:57am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions