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Late Harvest Pays Off in the Côte-Rôtie

Stéphane Ogier found 2008 to be an enjoyably challenging year for Côte-Rôtie winemaking.

Posted: Nov 19, 2008 10:34am ET

By Stéphane Ogier

Posted by Stéphane Ogier

I can see now that to be a good journalist or wine writer, it is probably better not to be a winemaker at the same time. Well, especially not during harvest! So a month after my first blog contribution, let me tell you a bit on what is going on in the Côte-Rôtie.

The big traditional rush has finally finished, last week we started the pressing of the first tanks and we’re about to finish it off right now.

The decision to harvest late this year has really paid off. The best weather that we could expect arrived in mid-September, meaning cold and strong winds from the north together with cold nights and great sunny days. This optimal weather luckily stayed with us until some time after the harvest.

In the early days of September, I started to get myself ready for what could have been the most difficult vintage ever, but we actually arrived with some really good cuvées, great fruit and not very tannic wines, but with a nice finesse and purity. The malic acid is at quite a high level this year so the wines will definitely change after the malolactic fermentation for an even better roundness. At the domaine, we started the picking of the first red on Sept. 29 and finished off on Oct. 10, and most of the best vineyards were harvested in the first week of October.

Late malo is always something I prefer for my wines, especially for a vintage like this one. In that way we protect much more of the color, the fruit and the body. The temperature here has now dropped so I leave the cellar open during the day. This helps to keep the temperature down and then to block the second fermentation.

This year we made a 200-square-meter extension cellar and I had the pleasure to try out my new "toy" for this harvest. We could process the fruit much easier and let me tell you that was quite important in this vintage. The selection of grapes this year was performed really strictly. The sorting was done, first by the picker in the vineyard, second by the people filling up the bins and finally in the cellar on the sorting table, where four to six people worked on removing what we don’t want going into the tank. I still think that this work really starts in the vineyard during the spring by the canopy management, meaning strict debudding, leaf blocking and green harvesting. But a year like this one, canopy work wasn’t enough, and sorting became indispensable.

This year I am actually quite demanding! I wanted a second "toy" and this one we are using for the pressing. I made a special bin used to empty the tank and then to fill up the press by gravity. I love it! This is very gentle for the grapes and we get a much better-quality press wine in the end. I still cannot understand winemakers who use pumps for this work.

Like each year, we are about to rack the 2007 vintage, start the first bottling of La Rosine and the first blending of the Côte-Rôtie. The new 2008 will then be going on barrel.

I want to comment quickly on the quality of the vintage: I will say that 2008 will not be the greatest vintage we have had in Côte-Rôtie, but personally, I really like this type of challenging year. At this moment, I see it as a 2000 or 2004 vintage style. Another vintage of "vignerons," where big differences of quality will be seen in the future bottling of the 2008 Côte-Rôtie. Still, winemakers who have taken risks, worked well in the vineyard during the summer (without counting the hours of work), waited for the best maturity, made a strict selection of grapes and separated their blocks to keep the best at the end will make the difference. I love this, because I can already tell by the first tasting that the best wines will be very good! Wine lovers who prefer to open the bottle instead of putting them in the cellar forever will be very happy with 2008

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