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An Early Look At The Southern Rhône

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Sep 8, 2006 10:04am ET

While we're all enjoying the weekend, harvest is starting in the Rhône. I received numerous updates from vigerons who make Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes du Rhône this week; here are just a few of their comments...

Frédéric Coulon, Domaine Paul Coulon & Fils

Everything is perfect (but it was the same in 2002 before the big rain!) so we have to wait and cross our fingers that it continues. An old saying goes something like: "Don't say anything before all the crop is in the cellar." … We plan to begin the harvest on 11th. Certainly we will pick the Roussanne before, and some Syrah. I think a lot of people will begin next week.

Michel Gonnet, Domaine Font de Michelle and La Font du Vent

The winter was very cold (a lot of days with temperatures below 0°C). We had 15 cm of snow on January 25th, which is very rare here. We also had a few good rains in February and March.

Starting in April we had a long time without rain. Until mid-July, the vines didn't suffer too much from this lack of rain. This can be explained by the fact that our vines, whichare never irrigated, have developed roots that go very deep in the soil to find all the nutritive elements and water they need.

We had a good rain on July 14th (35 mm) that was really beneficial. Then it rained 22 mm on August 15th. This last rain was very helpful during the ripening period.

Concerning the temperatures, July was very hot but temperatures stayed under those of July 2003. August was a very windy period with a "mistral" present almost every day, and the temperatures were lower than in July.

Today we think that the 2006 vintage will be a great vintage, with alcohol and anthocyanins similar to those of 2005. It also seems that quantities are going to be a little bit higher than in 2005.

We [started] to harvest the white Châteauneuf-du-Pape on September 5 and the red Côtes du Rhône on the 6th. We will wait until Sept. 12 or 14 for the red Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Now, even if we have worked a lot during this year, it's Bacchus who will determine the vintage quality in giving us three weeks of nice weather!

Jean-Jacques Sabon, Domaine Roger Sabon & Fils

Summer was very hot and dry. It rained 25 millimeters until the 14th of July. In August, it was still very dry, but the climate was more temperate (nearly 20 millimeters of rain). We are starting to harvest the whites with beautiful conditions, sunny and dry, we are very lucky. So if the climate keeps going like that all through the harvest, we could have a good harvest - less important than last year but very good.

Laurent Charvin, Domaine Charvin

For the moment, the berries are beautiful, with a good concentration of polyphenols and sugar, with good acidity. If all can continue like that... We will certainly start the harvest on the 11th with Syrah and some parcels of Grenache in Côtes du Rhône and then begin around the 20th for Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Philippe Bravay, Domaine Charles Bravay

There have been hot temperatures, but it's not 2003. The difference is we had 50 millimeters of rain for July, and in August we had low temperatures. This is good for aromas, and the acidity is normal. I think it is a mix of ‘01 and ’04 [vintages].

Jean-Paul Autard, Domaine Paul Autard

Currently the sanitary state of our vines is superb. It has been very beautiful and warm in the beginning of September. July was very hot, with rain at the right moment. August was fresher with rains that helped the vines to mature well. The difference of temperature between the night and the day necessary for good maturation of the grape were optimal. and there are good acidities. It all predicts a very beautiful vintage.

Thierry Usseglio, Pierre Usseglio & Fils

There was a mistral during the flowering, which led to some coulure in the Grenache, but it is still a good crop. We had to work to manage the yields on Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. The veraison started on July 20th and lasted until August 20th. … As of today, the sanitary state is good, the temperatures are warm and we will begin to harvest the Grenache Blanc on the 11th. We’ll then continue with Syrah (already at 14.5 potential alcohol).

Marc Perrin, Château de Beaucastel and Perrin & Fils

The grapes look very, very healthy. We started harvesting some whites (young vine Roussanne in Beaucastel and Viognier in Coudoulet and Perrin Côtes du Rhône) but for us there is no rush on the reds...maybe next week? The weather is nice now so we wait.

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