I've been checking in with a few producers in the Rhône as they gear up for their 2008 harvest. The growing season (which I'll report on more once the harvest is complete) has been tricky in both the north and south, with spring rains and humidity that led to difficult flowering, lower yields, and tougher disease pressures in the vineyards. Some rainy weather in early September hasn't helped matters.
Here are some snippets of info from a few of the region's top producers:
In the southern Rhône:
Marc Perrin, co-owner of Château de Beaucastel and Perrin & Fils, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Sept. 10 - "We just started some Viognier this morning in Coudoulet (lieu-dit). For now, [the crop] is healthy and looks good, but it will be a small harvest in terms of quantity, maybe 40 percent less for the Viognier and 20 percent less overall due to humidity during the flowering. The weather is OK for now [but] some more rain is expected on Friday."
Isabel Ferrando, owner and winemaker of Domaine St.-Préfert / Domaine Ferrando, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Sept. 10 - "It is still early to be sure of my judgment, but for the moment, we had 48 millimeters (1.89 inches) of rain since the beginning of September in my sector of Châteauneuf. The weather announcement [for] tomorrow evening [is] rain and strong wind, then the mistral (northern wind) from Saturday. So everything is fine, the mistral will save us once more! By cons there are not many grapes. The flowering has suffered from spring rains that have greatly reduced yields. The spring was also difficult because of rain. We have treated against disease more often than other years. Today in my opinion, the harvest is healthy, but we are 10 days late on maturities."
Nicolas Haeni, co-owner and winemaker of Domaine de Cabasse in Séguret
Sept. 10 – “It is still a little early, but I think that for this vintage everything is still possible - in both senses. We had a lot of rain over the last ten days. The potential of the polyphenols is very good this year, and phenolic maturity will match the technical maturity, more or less. That means we will be able to make well-structured wines without too much alcohol - that is the perfect scenario which would [assume] dry and warm weather from now on. Unfortunately the weather is still a little unstable and we hope that the mistral will start drying the atmosphere. We are still leaf plucking a lot right now with the hope of keeping botrytis away. It is still looking good, so we stay positive. I think we will start picking on September 18.”
In the northern Rhône:
Yves Gangloff, co-owner and winemaker of Domaine Mathilde & Yves Gangloff, in Côte-Rôtie
Sept. 9 - "Yes we had very bad, rainy weather today and botrytis appeared in the vineyards. We are anxious - it is not ripe and we have to wait still 2 weeks minimum, but can we?"
Paul Amsellem, co-owner of Domaine Georges Vernay in Condrieu
“We are a little bit late for the harvest. We got a lot of rain during August, so we need sun to get good maturity. Christine [Vernay] thinks we could start [picking] on the 25th but not before. It will depend with the weather over the next few days. The yield is low on Syrah and Viognier and we've got coulure on the Viognier. Mildew came in July and the pressure of this mildew has been stopped, but it was very hard.”
Note: Coulure is the French term for ‘shatter’, which describes the condition in which grapes fail to develop properly after the flowering. This is typically caused by wet, cloudy and cool conditions (or extreme heat).